Health Care Reform for Young Lawyers
by Stephen Bowen
You can’t turn on the television or read the newspaper without encountering a health care reform headline. Many people, attorneys included, are overwhelmed by the thought of Affordable Care Act (ACA) Compliance. Our clients and friends send us emails all the time wondering if anything needs be done from a form or paperwork perspective. The answer is probably a bit surprising!
Starting on January 1, 2015, only firms that employ fifty or more full-time employees will be required to offer coverage or face a penalty. This mandate was supposed to be rolled out this coming January but has been delayed at least until 2015. In addition, employers with fifty or more employees will be required to file an annual return reporting the coverage offered to employees with specific plan details. This is to ensure that employees are not being asked to carry too much of the burden for employer-sponsored plans. So unless you employ fifty or more employees, you will not be required to provide group health coverage for your employees.
For small employers (fifty or less employees), there is no ACA requirement to provide health insurance to employees. Many employers will continue to do so as an advantage with retaining employees, recruiting, etc. However, there are no requirements, and more importantly, no penalties for choosing not to provide benefits.
Beginning in 2014, the ACA mandate begins for individuals to have health insurance or pay a penalty. This is the most pertinent to sole practitioners, attorneys in small firms, etc. You are required to purchase health insurance that is certified by the Health Insurance Marketplace. For a plan to be certified, it must meet certain limits based mostly on cost-sharing minimums. Plans purchased through state and federal exchanges will be certified as will those obtained through experienced brokers.
The penalty for not obtaining coverage after January 1, 2014 will be the higher of:
This penalty will be in addition to any uninsured medical costs as a result of not possessing insurance. This is likely to increase in the coming years to encourage those who can afford health insurance to purchase a qualifying plan.
The most important take away of health care reform for young attorneys is that, on or before January 1, 2014, you need to have a qualifying insurance plan. This can be through an employer provided group plan, spouse’s plan, or an individual policy. For those attorneys with employees, there are no requirements to provide group coverage unless you exceed the fifty full-time employee threshold.
If you have any questions or need help obtaining coverage for yourself or your employees, please contact your insurance agent or broker.