Elizabeth Hohauser thought she had understood the Affordable Care Act pretty well. But the small-business owner recently discovered that she would need to provide employees with an official notice about the new health insurance marketplace as of Oct. 1.
“I’m not sure what it is I’m supposed to be doing,” said Hohauser, 42, who owns the CPR Cell Phone Repair store in Shelby Township, Mich.
The franchise holder, who opened for business in December, said she is talking with the parent company and doing research to make sure things are done correctly. The business has two full-time employees, including Hohauser, and three part-timers.
These days, many business owners and consumers are discovering that they need to pay attention to all sorts of moving parts relating to the Affordable Care Act.
On the business side, accountants and others are telling employers to be aware of the Oct. 1 deadline for providing required notices to employees about the availability of the new health insurance marketplace mandated by federal law.
On the pocketbook side, consumers need to watch out for potential ACA scams in the coming weeks, too.
First, the business alert. If a business is subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act, the employer still must focus on an Oct. 1 deadline to give a notice to all existing part- and full-time employees. That’s true regardless of whether the company is offering a health plan.
And beginning Oct. 1, the notice must be provided to new employees when they are hired.
Rob Fowler, president and CEO of the 21,000-member Small Business Association of Michigan in Lansing, said he is still hearing from small business owners who say those notices don’t apply to their companies. He tells them they’re wrong.
The Small Business Association of Michigan is promoting a service called ACANotice.com to help employers send out the letters. The fee is a one-time charge of $30 plus 60 cents per employee address. Lake Michigan Mailers in Kalamazoo, Mich., tapped into its expertise turning data into documents to create ACANotice.com.
David Rhoa, president of Lake Michigan Mailers, said his company has worked with businesses in 38 states. He said business clients range in size from as few as three employees to as many as 9,500.
Sometimes, he said, he has heard business owners say they do not need to send notices because they have fewer than 50 employees, but that is not the case.
Lake Michigan Mailers has 55 employees, provides health insurance and already sent employees the ACA notices.
Some experts say the October deadline could be delayed, given other delays in the Affordable Care Act. We’ll see, of course.
Byran Hirn, area president for Gallagher Benefits Services of Michigan, said he would view Oct. 1 as a live date.
Employers are “facing a very complex communications task,” Hirn said.
Among other things, the requirement includes letting employees know they may lose the employer portion of their health benefits if they purchase a plan through the ACA marketplace. Employees also need to be told that they may be eligible for a premium tax credit if they purchase a qualified health plan through the marketplace.
An insurance carrier or third-party plan administrator would not be responsible for sending these notices.
The Department of Labor website gives more details.
No doubt when people are confused, you can bet the scam artists smell yet another crooked payday.
As for consumers, the best advice is to watch your wallet if you are shopping for health care or just worried about medical bills.
Confusion surrounding the ACA is opening the door to con artists, according to a warning posted at Fraud.org, a project of the National Consumers League.
The scammer may claim to be from the federal government and pitch insurance cards. Some are even so bold as to tell consumers that the “government now requires” that citizens supply a bank account number to pay for some services.
Fraud.org noted that a company in Arizona even tricked a senior into giving bank account information by saying there were only 20 spots left for those qualified to sign up for the ACA.
The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services is warning consumers never to provide unsolicited callers with personal information, such as bank account numbers or Social Security numbers.
Other signs of a scam: Government representatives do not sell insurance over the phone, door-to-door or by email. There are no insurance cards associated with the ACA. Hang up if someone is talking about a “national Obamacare card.”
No one needs to sign up or pay for a new Medicare card to continue benefits, either.
Some con artists say they are selling “Temporary New Law” insurance for those without insurance, but having pre-existing conditions. Not true.
Susan Tompor is the personal finance columnist for the Detroit Free Press.