Affordable Care Act: What HR Managers Need To Know

(Post written by James McCarthy, Mainebiz)

Kristine Avery, senior vice president of human resources at FISC Solutions in Lewiston, has four words of advice for HR managers now that the ACA has withstood its legal challenge: “Get informed, get educated.”

Avery, certified as a senior professional in human resources, quickly adds that there are plenty of resources available, including the Maine affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management, which she leads as state director.

While acknowledging the complicated mix of legal and political questions to be evaluated, Avery says there are some ACA highlights that HR managers should know now.

For example, employers face an immediate requirement to provide summaries of benefits and coverage to their employees, including descriptions of cost-sharing requirements such as deductibles, co-insurance and co-payments, and information regarding any exceptions, reductions or limitations under the coverage. The explanations are to be made available to participants and beneficiaries who enroll or re-enroll in group health coverage through enrollment periods after Sept. 22, 2012.

A primer for employers on the national SHRM website reminds them that in 2013 they must:

  • Report the value of employer coverage on employees’ 2012 Form W-2s.
  • Cap health care flexible spending arrangements at $2,500.
  • Increase Medicare withholding for employees earning more than $200,000 per year.

On the horizon

The most controversial element of the ACA, the individual mandate that requires most Americans to have adequate health coverage or pay penalties, takes effect in 2014 — as does the requirement that employers with more than 50 employees offer full-time employees and their dependents affordable coverage with a minimum value or face penalties.

Also by 2014, health insurance exchanges are intended to be operating in every state, offering community-rated insurance to certain small employers and individuals. Federal premium tax credits will be available to help some people buy that coverage. The SHRM primer advises employers to expect a spike in plan enrollment for 2014 due to the individual mandate, but notes they might see enrollment level off once the state exchanges become operational.

Avery also encourages her HR colleagues to:

  • Meet with their insurance agents or brokers to discuss how requirements under the ACA might impact the employer.
  • Speak with payroll vendors about including health-care costs on W-2 forms for 2012.
  • Analyze options and make sure whatever health plan is offered meets the ACA’s requirements, to avoid potential penalties.
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