How to Comply With the Affordable Care Act

by Robert Moskowitz on October 1, 2013

The Affordable Care Act’s marketplace opens today — despite the federal government’s budgetary shutdown — so it’s time for small-business owners to take steps to remain in compliance with the law.

Here’s a primer on what to do right now.

Get the Proper Forms

First off, you need to notify your employees of their coverage options. Log on to the U.S. Department of Labor website and download the Model Notice form that corresponds to whether or not you offer your staffers a health insurance plan. The forms are available in English and Spanish.

Fill out the form(s) with the specific information that’s requested about your company — and, if you’re offering health coverage, details of the plan(s) you’re making available.

Ask Employees to Sign

The Model Notice forms should provide your employees with all of the pertinent information that you’re required to supply. Make copies of these completed forms, and give one to each of your employees. Ask everyone to sign with the date on a distribution sheet, so that you can prove you provided the information on a timely basis.

This really should be done by Oct. 1. However, there is no fine or penalty for being a few days late.

Get More Information

Your accountant should be able to help you navigate some of the complexities of the Affordable Care Act, and you can also find a great deal of information on the Labor Department website.

For example, the site provides answers to many frequently asked questions regarding compliance, grandfathered health plans, preventive health services, the effective date for individual health insurance policies, exemptions to the law, and more. In particular, you’ll want to check out the Small-Business Health Care Tax Credit for Small Employers.

Understand Your Obligations

Because the Affordable Care Act creates a whole new ballgame for small businesses, you may benefit from reviewing the advice offered by the National Federation of Independent Business. It gives you a timeline of what’s legally slated to unfold between now and 2018, and specifies in detail what employers must do, beginning in 2015, to avoid penalties.

Small businesses that employ fewer than 50 full-timers and do not offer health care coverage to those employees will escape requirements for compliance and will not pay any penalties.

Plan to Keep Current

The Affordable Care Act is still a work in progress: Many regulatory details and standards have yet to be worked out. Because the rules will continue to evolve, reading the relevant regulations today isn’t enough. You’ll need to stay abreast of future developments.

Of course, there will be ample news stories and advice from small-business support organizations like the NFIB. But instead of depending “on the kindness of strangers,” for the next few years, you may want to establish a quarterly reminder on your calendar. That way, you’ll remember to check in with the Affordable Care Act’s progress — and find out if there’s anything more you need to do.

Robert Moskowitz is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.