As a small-business owner, you may be concerned about the way the Affordable Care Act, also known as health care reform, will affect your company.
The law offers incentives that may make it more appealing to you to think about adding, or keeping, your workers' health insurance.
Of course, offering insurance may have drawbacks, too. Here are some questions to consider if you are an employer with fewer than 50 employees.
I own a supermarket with about 40 employees. Am I required by law to provide health insurance for them? Will I face a penalty if I don't?
No. The employer mandates you've heard about are for businesses with 50 or more employees. Starting in 2015, large employers who don't offer health insurance may have to pay a penalty.
Since your business has fewer than 50 full-time workers, you don't have to pay a penalty if you don't offer them insurance.
I own a restaurant with quite a few part-time workers. How do I determine whether I have the equivalent of 49 full-time workers?
The law considers a full-time employee to be someone who works an average of at least 30 hours a week.
A half-time employee works an average of 15 hours a week.
So if your business employs 98 half-time workers you have the equivalent of 49 full-time workers.
You can also have a mix of full-time and half-time workers to equal 49. For instance, you could have 50 half-time workers (which is equivalent to 25 full-time workers) and 24 full-time ones, as well as other combinations.
I'd like to consider offering health insurance for my business with fewer than 50 workers. Can I find insurance for them in the new Marketplace being set up in my state?
Starting in 2014 there are two types of Marketplaces, also known as Exchanges, that are being set up in each state. One Marketplace is for individuals looking for insurance. If you do not offer health insurance through your business, your employees can buy coverage through the individual Marketplace. And they may qualify for a tax credit to help them cover the cost.
The other Marketplace, called SHOP, is for small-business owners like you. You can apply, shop, and enroll through an agent, broker or insurance company. By late 2015, you should also be able to enroll through the web site Healthcare.gov. SHOP stands for Small Business Health Options Program.
You will be able to compare the costs and benefits of the plans in SHOP and then select one plan to offer your workers. All the plans that are offered in SHOP will use a standard format to explain their coverage and prices. And they will all use plain language to describe their policies.
Beginning in 2015, more choices will be available to your employees. Through your state's SHOP you will select the level of coverage you want to offer your employees (bronze, silver, gold, or platinum) and how much money you wish to contribute to the cost of their insurance. Employees will then be able to select from the range of plans that meet the criteria you have set.