October 1 a Big Day for Small Business
By Jan Meekombs
Oregon Chapter – NFIB
Leaving aside all the justifiable gripes small-business owners have over the confusion, delays, retreats, and exceptions made to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) since its passage in 2010, it’s the law of the land, and Oct. 1 marks a milestone start-date that will need acting on.
On or before that date, “… all employers must provide a notice of coverage to each employee, regardless of plan enrollment status or of part- or full-time status,” according to Cover Oregon, the new state agency quarterbacking your involvement in Obamacare. “Employers do not need to provide a separate notice to non-employees including dependents or other individuals who are or may become eligible for coverage under the plan. Current workers must be notified by October 1, 2013, but may be notified prior to October 1st. The notice must be provided automatically, free of charge, and written in a manner that can be understood by the average employee. It may be provided by first-class mail or electronically if the requirements of the DOL’s [U.S. Department of Labor] electronic disclosure safe harbor are met.”
Have questions? You are not alone. In fact, it’s the rare bird that has none, generally those who already provide health care and whose insurance companies have noodled on the law for years. For the majority of Oregon small-business owners, however, confusion is afoot across the land.
To help shine some light on the issue of Obamacare compliance, the National Federation of Independent Business is holding a small-business policy conference in Welches at The Resort at the Mountain on October 3, and invites all small-business owners to attend, regardless of whether they are NFIB members or not. An NFIB legal expert and representatives from Cover Oregon will provide some important advice. Cost and registration information is available on the NFIB/Oregon website at www.nfib.com/oregon.
NFIB has been a ubiquitous presence throughout the compliance process and will continue to not only provide guidance to small-business owners, but to advocate on their behalf until Congress figures out how to stop this law from harming job creators. In fact, NFIB was the only business group to challenge the legality of PPACA all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
As the implementation deadline looms, it’s important to remember that businesses with 50 or more employees recently received a one-year extension on Obamacare compliance. But not all small businesses and self-employed individuals will enjoy the reprieve. For them, the full thrust of the law starts Jan. 1, 2014.
An important component of Obamacare is the creation of state-based, health-insurance exchanges where small businesses and individuals could supposedly find affordable plans. States had the option to establish one of their own or have the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Service force a federally created one on them.
On their annual ballot, NFIB/Oregon members opted for a state-created one, which we now have in Cover Oregon, and on whose advisory board are members of the small-business community. To political purists, this might seem like hedging your bets: To challenge the entirety of the law while trying to influence a major component of it. But small-business owners must deal in life’s practicalities multiple times a day and correctly guessed that should the law stand, the exchanges would have to have the most important ingredient that could possibly make them work: Plenty of choices in insurers and plans.
Only by having a health-insurance exchange offering a variety of plans and insurers could there be any hope in addressing the primary reason the majority of small-business owners couldn’t offer health care in the first place: Cost.
Whether these exchanges work as hoped or planned remains to be seen. And whether a future Congress overturns what a past one did is anyone’s guess. One thing is for certain: Obamacare must be complied with for the moment, and NFIB is here to ensure that small businesses can get the assistance they need.