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American employers should get ready for a host of challenges linked to the ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), said a team of LeClairRyan attorneys focused on helping clients cope with the 2,504-page healthcare reform package.
“Employees who lack coverage will not be able to buy insurance from the government’s Health Insurance Marketplace until Jan. 1, 2014—but this does not mean U.S. employers have a full year in which to make their final preparations for compliance,” noted LeClairRyan shareholder James P. Anelli during a recent webinar by the national law firm’s ACA team. “On the contrary, employment decisions made in 2013—regarding, for example, the number and types of employees on the payroll this year—could have a major impact on the bottom line in the year to come.”
Key provisions of ACA have already taken effect, with more to come online in 2013. Failure to understand the ramifications of these changes, the attorneys noted, could lead to costly penalties, missed tax credits, time-consuming and expensive litigation, lost opportunities for employees, and other adverse consequences. As a result, companies should waste no time in determining exactly how ACA’s extensive mandates might affect their operations, said Anelli, who is based in the firm’s Newark office.
One of the broadest statutory enactments in the past 50 years, the healthcare reforms will be overseen and enforced by multiple government agencies. “The complexity here is enormous,” noted Anelli, who focuses his practice on labor and employment issues. “The IRS, Department of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Treasury have been providing various guidances for the past two years. But we are clearly still in the initial stages of understanding the terms of ACA and how various sections of it will be implemented. It is critical to stay abreast of this changing regulatory landscape.”
While the ACA applies to public, private, and non-profit employers with 50 or more “F-T employees,” what this actually means in practice is more complex, noted veteran healthcare attorney Neil Ekblom, a shareholder in LeClairRyan’s New York City office. Whether a company is large enough to be covered under ACA, for example, hinges largely on a formula that includes the accumulated hours of part-time employees as a variable, he explained. “Even some of ACA’s basic requirements for employers, such as what exactly is meant by Minimum Essential Coverage or ‘MEC,’ have yet to be clarified by IRS and HHS,” Ekblom noted.