Health Care Reform: Deadlines Every Georgia Employer Needs to Know

Emily Macheski-Preston

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

In the wake of the Health Care reform, many employers are experiencing anxiety over how the Health Care reform will impact their individual businesses, whether it is confusion over compliance requirements or uncertainty as to how the reform will affect their costs. This concern is justified – for most people, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010) is a complex and confusing area of law. As the Health Care law gradually goes into effect, it is important for Employers to be aware of the many compliance deadlines. Some portions of the reform, such as allowing adult dependants to remain on insurance until the age of 26, are already in effect. Some portions of the reform are only applicable to health care facilities or health insurance providers. However, below are some examples of the many ways the Health Care reform may impact employers:

  • Taxes and Tax Credits: The Health Care reform eliminates some reimbursements and tax deductions which previously may have been available for employers. In addition, starting in 2013, if the employer offers a health care flexible spending account, the maximum contribution is limited to $2,500.00 per year. However, the Health Care reform also offers several new tax credits for eligible employers; such as the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. More information is available on the IRS’s website. 
  • Tax Reporting: Employers will be required to report the annual costs of health coverage on each employee’s W-2, supplement annual Form 5500 reports, and pay a per-plan-participant fee to the government for research purposes. The IRS is currently in the process of adopting guidance for employers on compliance deadlines.
  • Providing Insurance Coverage to Employees: Beginning in 2014, each employer with 50 or more employees will have to provide a specified minimum level of health coverage that is affordable to its employees or pay a penalty. Employers with more than 200 full-time employees are required to automatically enroll new full-time employees in group health plans. (Note: the law specifically dictates how an employer can determine the number of employees). Some plans may have “grandfathered status,” which are exempt from many new requirements; however, employers have limited flexibility in making benefit changes or increasing costs to participants while using these plans.
  • Limitations on Insurance Coverage: Starting in 2014, employers are prohibited from imposing annual or lifetime limits on benefits amounts. The Health Care reform also prohibits waiting periods in excess of 90 days and pre-existing condition limitations. 

On a last note, it is important to remember that many aspects of the Health Care reform are still being developed, and therefore the overall impact of the Heath Care reform on Employers is unknown. Federal agencies will be adopting and amending rules and regulations in order to implement the Health Care reform. In the coming years, employers should expect federal agencies to offer more guidance on how to comply with Health Care reform. Employers should also be on the lookout for proposed regulations (regulations still in development) and exercise their right to comment on these proposals. By submitting comments, employers will be able to make suggestions on pending regulations and potentially stop portions of regulation which may be harmful to that employer’s interests.

For more information or for instructions on how to submit comments on proposed regulations, please contact Emily at Emily.preston@colemantalley.com or 229-242-7562. Emily is a litigation attorney with Coleman Talley LLP and practices in employment law, local government law, and civil trial defense. Celebrating its 75th anniversary and with 28 attorneys, Coleman Talley LLP is one of the largest and oldest full-service law firms in South Georgia.

**Disclaimer: This article is a discussion of legal issues. Information from this article should not be relied upon as legal advice and reading this article does not create an attorney-client relationship with the author. Many employment issues are extremely fact-specific and require individual assessment and advice.

About Emily Macheski-Preston

Emily Macheski-Preston is an attorney at Coleman Talley LLP practicing in the areas of employment law, civil litigation, and local government law.