April 15 is a date that gives business owners angst annually. In 2013, there is another date—October 1—that is making business owners nervous, and one that most people do not understand. The Greater Phoenix Black Chamber of Commerce (GPBCC) hosted a seminar-Healthcare Reform Networking Breakfast—on September 12, 2013, to provide some clarity for business owners.
There is a lot of confusion about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), more commonly known as Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA), that was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. Some popular provisions (e.g., allowing parents to cover their children up to 26 years of age) are already in effect. The confusion is justified, as many of the other definitions, regulations and procedures are still in flux.
The October 1 deadline requires that companies, covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, must provide a written notice to their employees about the Health Insurance Marketplace. But it appears that the Federal government may not be issuing fines or penalties at this time. States had the option of creating their own exchanges or using Federal ones; Arizona deferred to the Federal system.
GPBCC invited two representatives to help clear the fog. Tim Martin, Territory Sales Manager for Colonial Life Insurance, described the impact of healthcare reform on businesses. Among many key points he discussed included the fact that employers, with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees, are exempt from the requirements, and the details of and differences between public and private exchanges. There will be subsidies available for families. Also, it is important for businesses to know that voluntary, supplemental insurance policies are not affected.
Jamie Perikly, COO, Health Choice, focused on the more personal impacts of the legislation and regulations, including the fact that the reforms will eliminate gender and pre-existing condition biases, open enrollment periods, the relationship to Medicaid, and how the new Market Place, where insurance companies will compete for business by price, will work.
Like all legislation, there are good intentions and genuine benefits, as well as major challenges to implementation. But there will be educational resources available. There are many websites, such as www.healthcare.gov, http://connect.coloniallife.com/health-care-reform/, and www.kff.org, which can provide updates for employers. There are also organizations, like GPBCC and Women’s Health Coalition of Arizona, which have been designated as “navigators,” organizations, which will help people through the process.