Employer mandate penalties are coming

It’s been two years of required reporting of the Employer Mandate under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but the IRS has yet to impose any penalties on employers for failing to comply with the law. This delay has suggested to some employers that the IRS would not be enforcing the mandates or collecting penalties. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) just released a report that is a game changer.

On April 7, 2017 TIGTA issued its, “Assessment of the Efforts to Implement the Employer Mandate under the Affordable Care Act.” In this report, TIGT explained that the IRS has developed an ACA Compliance Validation (ACV) System. It will be used to identify potentially non-compliant Applicable Large Employers and calculate the “A” penalty under the Employer Mandate. The IRS has been developing the ACV system since July 2015 with a scheduled completion date of January 2017. However, “the implementation of the ACV System has been delayed to May 2017.”

The report states that once the systems are in place, the IRS will be able to mass identify noncompliant employers. This will allow the IRS to send notices to noncompliant employers for any and all reporting years.

This means that time is up for employers who were delaying. The current lack of IRS notices for noncompliance with the Employer Mandate does not imply that the IRS does not intend to enforce the Employer Mandate. The IRS will come knocking, they are just running behind schedule. FreedomCare has the solutions you need, answer our simple questionnaire to get started.

Will you have to prove your compliance?

Last November, a few weeks after the national election, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began to issue notices to employers who may have failed to comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These notices appeared to be the start of the IRS ACA audit process.

Just a few weeks ago, Speaker Paul Ryan stated the ACA will be the law of the land for the “foreseeable future.” Companies are still liable for penalties incurred for ACA non-compliance as long as current regulations are in effect. Failure to successfully defend the IRS audit could mean significant ACA-related penalties.

These regulations are still in full effect:

  • Companies with 50 or more full-time employees, including equivalents, must offer health insurance of a certain quality to their full-time employees and their dependents – or face a penalty.
  • The threshold for classifying an employee as full-time, and thereby eligible for an offer of coverage, is an average of 30 service hours a week.
  • Employers large enough to comply with the ACA still won’t be fully ACA-compliant no matter how generous their offers of coverage are unless they also meet annual reporting requirements.
  • Employers must produce health-benefits forms (1095-Cs) for their full-time employees and copy the IRS on what’s documented on those forms.

Complying with the provisions of the ACA will be required until legislation has passed both houses of Congress and has been signed into law. But don’t worry, it’s not too late, give FreedomCare a call and we can get you or your clients compliant today.

Executive Order on the ACA – What does it mean for you?

On Inauguration Day, President Trump signed an executive order concerning the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the White House issued an immediate regulatory freeze. This has caused a lot of confusion and misinformation.

It is important to understand that the executive order doesn’t change the current state of law as it relates to the employer shared-responsibility provisions of the ACA and employer reporting. The Executive Order does not in and of itself change the legal status of the ACA. Only Congress can repeal the law. Because the order does not specify actions to be taken, it is not yet clear how the order will be implemented by federal agencies. Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) that are subject to the ACA Employer Mandate are required to furnish to their full-time employees a Form 1095-C by March 2, 2017 and to file them with the IRS by February 28 (March 31 if filed electronically).

At this point, employers should continue to consult their legal counsel on how to comply with all current ACA rules and regulations as the IRS retains its ability to penalize employers that do not accurately and timely file all ACA forms. Do you have questions on whether or not you or your clients fall into the ALE category? Still unsure about reporting requirements? Give FreedomCare a call today.

How to prepare for earlier reporting in 2017

How to prepare for earlier reporting deadlinesLast December, most employers were relieved when the IRS provided extensions of employee notifications and filing deadlines for Affordable Care Act (ACA) reporting. Unfortunately, this may have set up those same employers for failure as it will seem like these deadlines are coming 2 months earlier in 2017. To prevent this from happening, here are 4 ways to prepare for earlier reporting in 2017.

1. Give yourself plenty of cushion to submit required filings on time.

This year employers must provide 1095-Cs to employees by the end of January, indicating month-by-month coverage provided through the end of the previous December.

ACA Reporting Deadlines_with citationThese forms are required of most employers;

  • Employers of any size that sponsored a self-insured health plan providing minimum essential coverage must distribute to enrolled employees and file with the IRS Form 1095-B, showing a health plan enrollment.
  • Applicable large employers with 50 or more full-time employees or equivalents must distribute to enrolled employees and file with the IRS Form 1095-C, showing compliance with employer shared responsibility/minimum essential coverage requirements.

2. It’s now 95%, not 70%.

Unfortunately, last years extended reporting deadlines may not be the only things that trips up employers this year. Starting in 2016, all organizations with 50 or more full-time employees or equivalents must insure 95 percent of their full-time employees to avoid liability under the ACA’s shared responsibility provisions, and the resulting penalties.

The thing is, some employers may not understand that it’s not a 95% average for the year, it’s 95% for each month. If an employer had a month where they fell below 95%, then the employer is exposed. The employer could be facing penalties for the months when they were below the threshold.

The IRS will ask for payroll and benefits data, this will help them determine whether the indicator codes used on Form 1095-C are accurate. With last year’s 70% threshold, employers had a lot more leeway.

3. Exchange notices have been arriving.

Employers also need to be on the lookout for exchange subsidy notices. Notices pertaining to 2015 coverage, are now being sent from the ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplace. These notices allege that a full-time employee received subsidized coverage on an exchange because the employer failed to provide qualifying coverage.

4. Determining eligibility is an on-going effort.

The coverage provided to each full-time employee needs to be tracked and recorded every month. This needs to be an ongoing process for employers to get ready for the next year’s annual reporting. Employers can find relief by working with companies who offer tracking services that work in conjunction with payroll companies as part of their coverage. FreedomCare is one of the only options that provides this integration.

Employers that were close to the 50 or more full-time employee threshold last year need to make sure they stay on top of their eligibility. They need to run the numbers each month to make sure they aren’t on the hook. It would be terrible to find out too late and be liable for penalties for the whole year.

Reach out to FreedomCare, we can help you calculate and determine whether or not an employer needs to offer coverage. Trust us, it’s much less expensive than paying the penalties.

ACA Compliance Enforcement Begins!

ACA Compliance enforcement beginsEmployers are out of excuses and delays; ACA compliance enforcement has begun and they need to be compliant now. If you or your clients are an employer that decided not to choose a compliant plan or didn’t offer anything at all, the employer may be subject to penalties under the Employer Mandate.
May has been a big month for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). They’ve made two major announcements regarding the process for determining if an employee is eligible for a subsidy under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Earlier this month, HHS announced that they hired a third-party contractor to conduct an “employer verification study” where the contracted company will be calling employers and asking about the health insurance coverage they offer. The purpose of these calls is to determine whether employers have successfully offered an affordable plan that meets the minimum value requirements to their employees.
The need for these calls goes back to the ACA Exchanges, a person must state that they were not offered a plan that was affordable and meets minimum value by their employer. If they were indeed offered an eligible plan, this person would be ineligible for a subsidy.
CMS also released a sample notice that the Federal Exchange will send to employers that one of their employees has submitted an application for a subsidy and claims they haven’t been offered compliant coverage.
So why does this matter to you and your clients?
Well, some employers did everything they needed to do and chose a plan that was compliant, like the ones FreedomCare offers but the Exchange did not discover that fact during the verification process. The employer will have the opportunity to contact the Exchange and provide documentation that they offered a plan that is affordable and meets minimum value requirements. After the Exchange receives this info, they will re-determine the employee’s eligibility and discontinue any premium subsidy payments.
Let’s talk about our 100% compliant ACA solutions, give FreedomCare a call asap.

You can’t take the summer off from the ACA

4 reasons you cant take the summer offIt’s July and we are halfway through the summer; I know a lot of my clients and brokers are taking their yearly family vacations.

While you should enjoy time with your family, the end of the year will be here before you realize and unfortunately we can’t afford to take the summer off from the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Here are 4 reasons why.

1.  IRS penalties are accruing monthly.

We commonly refer to the IRS penalty amounts as an annual amount but the penalties are actually calculated on a monthly basis. Acting sooner rather than later and getting a compliant plan in place can save employers valuable dollars on penalties that won’t have the opportunity to accrue.

2.  Exchange notices are arriving.

For every employee that logs onto the Insurance Exchange and receives a health care subsidy, a complex trail of communication and paperwork begins that requires employers to prove the status of their health care offering. If an employer has chosen to offer coverage that isn’t compliant or no coverage at all, they will have no choice but to pay the penalties.

3.  Employee eligibility is constantly changing.

Employee status can change on a daily basis, so employers can’t afford to take a break from data collection and management. Employers have to be ready for whatever comes their way – even an IRS audit. ACA requirements have become tougher in 2016, employers must now offer affordable coverage to at least 95% of their full-time employees – up from 70% in 2015. As these and other changes take place, employers have to continue to calculate benefits eligibility and affordability for required employees.

4.  Annual reporting is just around the corner.

Reporting is an annual event. But employers can’t take a break for the rest of the year, the ACA record keeping they do all year is essential for the next reporting season. This includes the information employers must provide to the IRS and their employees that demonstrates the health care coverage offered to employees meets minimum essential and affordability requirements of the ACA.

Bottom line? The ACA is complex and this year the rules are firmer than ever. Most organizations don’t have the expertise and processes to stay on top of these changes and take accurate action.

The good news is, we can help with all of these issues and more. But employers need to take the first step and not delay. Choose to benefit from our comprehensive expertise so you can look forward to smooth ACA compliance and a great rest of the year.

IRS releases updates to form 720 (PCORI)

IRS releases updates to form 720 (PCORI)The ACA includes a number of fees that employers are required to pay in order to help support various aspects of healthcare reform. One of those fees, PCORI was just updated by the IRS for 2016. The deadline for these fees to be paid is July 31st, 2016.

What is PCORI and why does it matter to employers?

According to their website, “The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) helps people make informed healthcare decisions, and improves healthcare delivery and outcomes, by producing and promoting high-integrity, evidence-based information that comes from research guided by patients, caregivers, and the broader healthcare community.” Under the ACA, all employer sponsored health plans are subject to PCORI fees.

Why was the PCORI fee created?

The PCORI fees were established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to advance comparative clinical effectiveness research. PCORI fees are assessed on issuers of health insurance policies and sponsors of self-insured health plans. The fees are calculated using the average number of lives covered under the policy or plan, and the applicable dollar amount for that policy or plan year.

How much is the 2016 PCORI fee?

$2.17 per life

When are the 2016 PCORI fees due and how do you pay?

For policy and plan years ending on or after October 1, 2015, and before October 1, 2016
Employers and insurers will need to file Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 720 and pay the updated PCORI fee by July 31, 2016.

Employers have one month to calculate and send payment to the IRS. This form is relatively simple, but is structured in a way as to cause some confusion about who it applies to.

Give FreedomCare a call to discuss how to calculate and what to do if your clients aren’t compliant.

Forgotten details of ACA Compliance

Forgotten details of the ACAAs healthcare reform presents more pressing dilemmas for business owners, employers are looking towards insurance brokers to be their expert consultants. Brokers and agents who can devise a complete coverage package for their clients stands the best chance of keeping the decision-makers trust and the company’s business. Unfortunately, some brokers are forgetting about the little details of the ACA that can cost the most money. As a broker, it’s your responsibility to keep your clients informed.

Here are 7 details you or your clients may have missed.

  1. Update employee handbooks

If an employee handbook doesn’t reflect a company’s current benefits offering or is not properly updated, efforts may be in vein. Especially once an audit rolls around, as both the IRS and the Department of Labor may request copies for examination.

  1. Be explicit with the health care coverage offered to employee.

The ACA makes it mandatory for all large employers (those with 50 or more full-time employees/equivalents) to offer health care coverage to their 30+ hours a week employees. Failure to communicate with employees raises the risk of employees applying for subsidies on the exchange resulting in per-employee penalties that will add up quickly. Within the handbook, employers need to make sure the criteria for eligibility for health care coverage complies with the ACA.

  1. Document employees who WAIVE coverage

Should employees waive their coverage, employer’s need to protect themselves with documentation. Healthcare.gov supplied the employer appeal request form earlier this year, which requires employers to provide a reason an employee wasn’t eligible for a subsidy and requests documents to support their case.

  1. Don’t discount your full-time equivalent employees

Under the ACA, anyone employed by your company for 30 or more hours per week is eligible for an offer of health care coverage. That may include, “interns,” “temps,” and “part-timers.” The ACA defines who is eligible based on the hours of service and not the titles the company gives such workers. These workers may be eligible for health care and the employer will want to ensure that they are offered coverage if they fall within the eligibility definition.

  1. Include legal waiting period for health care in employee handbook

90 days is the maximum acceptable waiting period for health care under the ACA. Not three months (as some months have 31 days), and not the day after the 90th day (as that exceeds 90 days). The language used must be firm, 90 means 90, an overage of days will come back to haunt employers.

  1. Provide Summary of Benefits Coverage (SBC)

Just as important as offering coverage is educating your employees on what their coverage includes. An SBC breaks down the coverage for employees in an easy to understand format and must be provided beginning on the first day of the first open enrollment period under the ACA.

  1. Calculate eligible employees correctly (or hire someone that can)

Calculating full-time employees is a no brainer for most employers but calculating seasonal or full-time equivalent employees is an area with huge error for most. It’s important to stay educated with the current changes to the law or contract a company to handle it, like FreedomCare.

Share this valuable information with your clients. With renewals coming up for next year, make their compliance a top priority and call FreedomCare. Quotes are generated in less than 2 business days.

Employers on the hook for $228 billion in ACA penalties

Employers on the hook for $228 billion2016 brought enforcement of required reporting for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and thousands of US employers are not in compliance with the laws. This is going to translate into billions of dollars in tax penalties. Some employers chose to do nothing when it came to the law; others may think they are compliant. The opportunity for error was extensive. Brokers and employers trusted insurance companies to help them navigate the laws and choose a plan that met the requirements of the ACA.

The annual baseline budget projections by the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation (CBO), is projecting employer responsibility penalties to total $228 billion over a 10-year period from 2017 to 2026. The individual mandate penalty will yield a projected $28 billion, along with high-premium employer plans (aka the Cadillac Tax) is expected to yield $18 billion.

You may have clients who have done nothing to avoid these penalties or even clients who think they’ve done all they need to do. We have tools and resources available to help you determine whether or not your clients are protected.

Congress has a 10-year projection of collecting these penalties from employers, the only solution is guaranteed compliance with a plan from FreedomCare.

ACA Benefit Small Business Owners

How does the ACA benefit small business owners?

What if I told you there are opportunities for small business owners to attract better talent and have healthier employees? Here are 3 ways the ACA can benefit small business owners.

1. Better recruiting and higher retention.

You now have the opportunity to reinvent your employee benefits for your small business. Gone are the days when only the larger employers could offer the benefits it takes to recruit the best employees. With the ACA, you are now able to offer employees access to discounted health insurance benefits such as individual health insurance which provides qualifying individuals access to premium tax credits.

2. Think outside of the box – Self-Insurance.

Your Group is never too small to self-insure. Before the ACA small business owners had limited options for providing health insurance to employees and the idea of self-insurance was just for the big boys like Walmart, Target, etc. but now it’s available to all business owners. We want to help you offer affordable competitive benefits through self-insuring.

3. Increased productivity.

We have programs in place to improve your employees productivity, employees who have enhanced access to health insurance services and options tend to be healthier and cost your business less. Healthy employees are able to come to work more and produce at a higher level of productivity versus an employee who does not have access to health insurance services and is constantly sick. Some of the unforeseen costs of having sicker absentee employees are their replacement costs. The expense of finding a new worker, training them, allowing for their learning curve, et cetera.

These are just some of the ways the Employer Mandate benefits small business owners. Stay educated, we are a resource for your questions and here to help you. Contact FreedomCare today.

*For purposes of the employer mandate – FTE classifies all employees who work 30 hours or more.