Attention all U.S. employers - there is new mandated notice you are required to provide all employees beginning October 1, 2013.   It is very important that ALL employers, regardless of whether group health coverage is offered to employees, comply with this new regulation. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that all employers  inform their staff of the Health Insurance Marketplace's existence along with an overview of the program.  The Marketplace's first open enrollment  begins on October 1, 2013 and the timing of the required notice coincides with the launch of open enrollment.

Who is required to receive the notice and when must it be delivered?

The DOL has prepared two model notices that employers may rely upon, one for employers who offer health coverage and one for employers who do not.  The notice must be distributed to all current employees, regardless of either plan enrollment status or of full or part time status, no later than October 1, 2013, and to subsequent new hires no later than 14 days after their start date. Employers are not required to provide the notice to COBRA participants, retirees, or dependents.

What information is contained in the notice?

The notice includes the following three elements:
  • A description of the services provided by the Marketplace and how the employee may contact the Marketplace for guidance.
  • Eligibility for a premium tax credit if the employee purchases a qualified health plan through the Marketplace and if the employer’s plan share of total allowed costs under the employer plan is less than 60% of those costs.
  • Loss of eligibility for the employer contribution toward any health plan benefits offered by the employer and for the pre-tax treatment of all or a portion of such contributions for Federal income tax purposes if the employee elects to purchase a qualified plan through the Marketplace.
The notice also includes sections for the employer to complete providing the employee with the basic information they will need if they want to look into their options and/or complete a Marketplace application. Employers with health plans may choose to complete an additional section providing eligibility and cost information about their health plan. For most employers, the administrative burden of completing the employer sections should not be significant and completing the optional section may serve to reduce additional inquiries from staff.

How are employers required to deliver the notice?

The notice may be distributed by first class mail or electronic means such as email, provided that access to the employer’s electronic system is a regular component of an employee’s job. Regardless of the method chosen, employers should maintain ongoing records that include to whom the notice was sent and when. Note that posting the notice on a company’s website is not considered an acceptable means of distribution. i2i benefits has prepared a customized version of the notice for your use along with sample language to accompany it to help you meet this important notice requirement, and is available to address your questions on this and other Health Care Reform topics. The following is a sample communication piece to send to your employees with the Marketplace notice: Dear employees, As you are likely aware, the Affordable Care Act created many changes to healthcare coverage in the United States. One of those changes, the availability of the Health Insurance Marketplace, is quickly approaching. The Health Insurance Marketplace (“Marketplace”) is meant to provide a “one-stop-shop” for individuals to compare and purchase private health insurance.  The legislation asks that all employers share this important information with its employees. While most of us with employer-sponsored health insurance will likely not need to purchase health coverage from the “Marketplace”, it may still be useful for you or someone you know to find out what your options are. The attached notice provides general information about the Marketplace, as well as how to get additional details. We have also provided you with the information you’ll need if you decide to look at the Marketplace to learn more about your options. We hope you find this information useful. We are committed to providing you with a comprehensive benefit plan and to making sure you are kept well informed of related developments that may affect you and your family. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. Thanks,

BACKGROUND

The Health Insurance Marketplace is intended to provide a “one-stop-shop” to individuals and small businesses for comparing and purchasing private health insurance plans in an effort to expand access to affordable health care. Employers have an important role in publicizing the Marketplace rollout. The distribution of the required Marketplace notice is timed to coincide with the Marketplace’s initial open enrollment period, for coverage taking effect as early as January 1, 2014, so that employees have enough time to consider the options available for them and their families. As a final note, while employers are required to distribute the notice, the law does not provide for a fine or penalty for failing to do so.