For businesses around the state, preparing for the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act has been and will continue to be a tremendous undertaking. The health care landscape will change significantly over the next year, and many employers are being forced to re-evaluate exactly what sort of coverage they can offer their employees, given the projected sharp increase in premium costs.
Even with the recent decision to delay the employer mandate until 2015 — and regardless of one’s support or opposition — the Act is now the law, and we as a business community must be ready to adapt.
Here are just a few of the changes required by the new law:
• Starting in 2015, employers with 50 or more full-time employees must offer health insurance — and that insurance must be deemed “affordable” by the federal government
• Employers with fewer than 50 employees who opt to provide insurance must offer plans that include “essential health benefits” across 10 categories defined by the federal government.
• 18 new taxes have been created to cover costs of the law, including an insurance premium tax estimated to generate $100 billion over 10 years.
• Employers will face penalties of up to $2,000 per employee in certain situations for failure to offer coverage under the mandate.
While there are still a lot of questions remaining for both health care professionals and employers who provide insurance, there is no doubt that major changes are just over the horizon. As a result, businesses have started the process of deciding exactly how to implement these requirements into their operating structure. Insurance companies are also navigating new terrain as they try to maintain affordable coverage options — with some opting to participate in the new federal health insurance exchanges set to come online in October.
The Georgia Chamber is committed to supplying businesses with as much information as possible on the changes through our new Center for Competitiveness. We are monitoring the latest news updates, as well as relevant guidelines, to provide Georgia employers with every possible resource to make the best choices for their companies and their employees. At center.gachamber.com/federalhealthlaw, we have compiled a wealth of information on how the new laws will impact you — including summaries of key provisions, cost calculators, timelines and implications for employees and families.
The bottom line is that the Affordable Care Act is here — and we as a business community must ensure we have exactly what we need to make the most effective and responsible decisions possible as we venture into this new era of health care.
Chris Clark is president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.