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These days, it seems like if you blink, you will miss a new change to the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare). In just the past week, two major changes have occurred:

  1. Non-compliant plans can continue to be renewed under a new extension.
  2. The “final” reporting regulations were released, simplifying the ACAs reporting requirements.

The first of these two changes deals with plans that were cancelled last year because they did not meet the ACA’s minimum essential coverage requirements.  Millions of Americans received cancellation notices from their insurance carriers, drawing criticism of President Obama who had promised that, under the ACA, Americans could keep their current healthcare plans if they liked them.  To soften the blow, the President announced in November that health insurance issuers could  renew the non-compliant policies through 2014 under a transition relief policy.  Last week, it was announced that the policy had been extended, allowing plans to be renewed through October 1, 2016. For more information, please see the announcement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The final reporting regulations refer to the reports insurance carriers and employers will have to file to show that ACA-compliant coverage is being offered when required under the employer mandate.  Reports regarding coverage offered in 2015 will be due early in 2016.

The ACA will require insurance carriers to complete Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC, or Section 6055) reporting, while employers with more than 50 full-time employees must perform Applicable Large Employer (ALE, or Section 6056) reporting. Self-insured employers must complete both.  The final regulations combine both sections onto one form so that self-insured employers will only have to complete one form.  The final regulations also simplify the information employers must provide under section 6056 of that form.  Additionally, they provide a “phase-in” period for 2015 only that simplifies the information even further for employers who can certify that they offered qualifying coverage to at least 95% of their full-time employees. For more information, see the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Fact Sheet on the final regulations.

The employer mandate provision of the ACA is the portion of the law that has received the most attention, but these recent changes show that there are a number of other provisions and requirements that you need to be aware of. While these particular changes affect mainly individuals and large employers, Obamacare contains provisions and requirements that affect even the smallest employers. If you have even one in-house employee or one contractor on your payroll, you need to keep up with all the latest developments on this complex law.  We will continue to do our part to keep you up-to-date.

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