Don’t punt Affordable Care Act readiness to next year

Corporate Synergies' Compliance Department experts

I’m a big football fan, so this is an exciting time of year for me. A new NFL season is right around the corner, so I’m gearing up for the start of another season. While plenty of fans will be paying full attention when the regular season begins in September, I’m probably one of the few people who pay attention in August.

The reason a lot of people ignore the preseason but wouldn’t dare miss a game in the regular season is that preseason games don’t count. Literally. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. However, for the coaches who are tasked with putting together their teams and preparing to face real foes in a few short weeks (as well as for fanatics like me), preseason is invaluable. It’s a chance to evaluate strengths and weaknesses without the pressure of all important outcomes.

Which brings us to the point of this article. HR managers and other business executives have been handed a gift: A “preseason” to prepare for implementing the employer mandate (“Pay or Play”) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It’s an opportunity to get your business ready to comply with the play or pay mandate without the threat of penalty. As you know, earlier this summer the federal government pushed back possible penalties for noncompliance to 2015. Many businesses breathed a sigh of relief, and some proceeded to halt their ACA preparations.

It’s understandable that businesses have put their preparations on pause. The delay eased some of the urgency and there is still plenty of noise from Washington that could lead one to believe that employers will never have to implement many ACA provisions.

However, putting off your ACA preparations is a mistake.

Compliance with ACA is quite complex. Employers need to examine numerous variables to determine whether they want to maintain a traditional health insurance plan, whether they want to consider a private exchange option as well as making sure that they have the ability to track hours for variable hour employees.

On October 1, employers need to notify all employees of the government-run exchanges. And then they need to jump through multiple compliance hoops as of 2015, such as making sure the coverage they offer to full-time employees is both “affordable” and “adequate,” as defined by the ACA.

There will be a lot of discussions to be had and decisions to be made. There will be numerous unforeseen ramifications. There will be things that don’t work correctly. There are also various recordkeeping requirements that won’t necessarily be easy to follow and implement.

So why not prepare now (during the “preseason”) so 2015 (the actual “season”) is a non-event?

The prudent course of action for any business is to implement ACA provisions now in order to avoid the guessing game down the road. Stay the course with your ACA implementation plans.

Just like in preseason football, mistakes are allowed right now without any real consequence. When 2015 rolls around, the real games begin and the federal government will be waiting to throw a penalty flag against you unless you are prepared.


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