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Obamacare’s Big Debut
Adam Bluestein / Inc. / October 1, 2013
The ACA’s health-insurance exchanges open today. What does it mean for small-business owners?
It’s finally here. Come hell or government shutdown, Tuesday, October 1 is opening day for Obamacare’s central feature: the health-insurance exchanges.
These online marketplaces will allow individuals and small businesses to comparison-shop for health plans from a variety of carriers. Business owners in many states finally will get a chance to see their coverage options and premiums under the new health-care law.
The nationwide rollout of these state- and federally-run exchanges is a complicated affair and nobody–not even health-care reform’s staunchest defenders–expects everything to go smoothly. Fortunately, there’s time for the exchanges to find their footing. As for you, we’ve put together a helpful list of FAQs to help you figure out what, if anything, you need to do. And remember: whatever happens over the next few days, there’s no reason for panic. At least not yet.
1. Do I Need To Care?
In general, only businesses with 50 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees will be able to purchase health insurance through the new exchanges. (Note: For companies of this size, providing employees with healthcare is entirely optional; only businesses with more than 50 full-time employees will be affected by the employer mandate. And that’s not slated to go into effect until 2015.)
2. What’s this notification requirement I keep hearing about?
By October 1, the Affordable Care Act calls for all businesses with at least one employee and $500,000 in annual revenues to give employees a written notice informing them: (1) that the health exchanges are open, and (2) that, even if they have coverage through work, they may be able to get insurance more cheaply in the exchange. For help, check out the Department of Labor’s sample employer notice. Missed the deadline? No problem. In this year of health-care reform mulligans, the U.S. Department of Labor has announced that there will be no penalties for failing to make the notification on time.