ACA Requirements for Small Businesses

September 17, 2019by Alex Strautman

Decoding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) employer mandate can be difficult for the average small business owner. For some businesses, offering health insurance coverage is required. For others, it’s a choice. We’re breaking it down and shedding light on what you need to know to ensure your business is ACA compliant.

Do employers have to offer benefits to full time employees?

Applicable Large Employers with 50 Employees or More
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, signed by President Trump on December 22, 2017, eliminated the ACA individual mandate penalty (for not having health insurance). However, it did not affect the employer mandate, which applies to Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) with 50 or more full-time employees and/or full-time equivalent (FTE) employees. The ACA employer mandate remains in force. If your business employs 50 or more full time employees, offering health insurance is required.

Depending on how you staff your organization, calculating the number of full-time employees (including FTEs) can be complex. If you’re unsure of your group size, visit the website to use a group size calculator. When considering your group size, employees working 30 or more hours per week are considered full-time.

Required Coverage
Employers that qualify as ALEs are subject to the ACA’s shared responsibility provisions and the reporting requirements concerning minimum essential coverage. ALEs must offer health insurance that is “affordable” and provides “minimum value” to 95% of full-time employees and their eligible children up to age 26. If you are an ALE and do not offer ACA-compliant coverage, you are subject to penalties. For 2019 employer penalty information, consider reading this article by the Society for Human Resource Management.

Voluntary Coverage
If your business had, on average last year, fewer than 50 full-time employees (including FTEs), you are not an ALE for the current calendar year. Still, it’s important that you evaluate your potential ALE status annually.

While non-ALEs are not required to offer health coverage to employees, you can voluntarily do so. In fact, many employers not subject to the employer mandate offer health insurance and other employee benefits because it helps them compete in an increasingly competitive talent market.

Qualifying for Group Health Insurance
If you offer full-time employees health coverage, you must make it available to all employees, regardless of any pre-existing medical conditions. Health insurers will write groups with as few as two insured persons (the business owner and an employee). However, many carriers will not write a policy for a husband and wife group if both are owners of the business, or if it is a sole proprietorship. LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp, and Partnerships where a spouse is a W-2 employee are acceptable to most insurers. Ask your employee benefits agent for more information on qualifying for group health insurance.

Cost of Coverage
If you choose to purchase health insurance for your employees, the next step is determining how much you want to contribute toward the premium. With Defined Contribution, available from the CaliforniaChoice multi-carrier private exchange, you can choose a Fixed Percentage Amount (from 50% to 100% of the cost of a selected coverage level) or a Fixed Dollar Amount. Whatever amount you choose applies to each employee, and your cost is locked-in for a full year. At renewal, you can adjust your contribution up or down and lock it in for another 12 months.

Finding a Plan
You can choose to purchase coverage directly from an insurance company, or you can use an independent agent to help you shop multiple plans. A multi-carrier exchange like CaliforniaChoice or the state’s ACA exchange, Covered California, can expand your employees’ options without increasing your costs.

CaliforniaChoice also allows you to choose one or more ACA metal tiers for your employees. This gives you and your staff greater access to doctors, hospitals, and other providers offered by the eight health plans available across the state from CaliforniaChoice. The networks for CaliforniaChoice include 84,355 individual health care providers and 389 hospitals (as of August 2019).

Getting Help
To learn more about the health plan options available for your group, contact your employee benefits agent. If you don’t already have one, we can help you find an agent.

Do you need help choosing the right health benefits for your employees?
This guide can help!

Your beginner's guide to choosing a small business
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