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The Affordable Care Act:
Is Your Business Ready?

Health Care Reform and Affordable  Care Act

The White House delayed another mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) this week. Businesses with 51-99 full-time employees (those that work at least 30 hours a week) now have an extra year to provide health coverage.

The news of this delay came just days before our annual health care forum yesterday, where about 260 folks heard a panel of health and insurance industry representatives talk about what businesses should know when it comes to the ACA.

Heidi Alessi of K&L Gates said the delay in requiring companies with 51-99 full-time employees to offer health insurance is good for businesses because it gives them time to figure out how to comply with the law. Alessi said a number of her clients are having trouble determining whether their employees are full-time or part-time and how seasonal workers factor into the law.

We suggest meeting with an insurer so your company is fully prepared for the employer mandate to take effect in 2015. Here’s a list of our member insurance companies.

On a brighter note, a number of the panelists indicated that across the board, they’ve seen health insurance costs for individuals decrease since the law was implemented. They cautioned, though, that these are short-term stats and we’ll have to wait for more of the law to take effect before seeing specific results. A lot of this has to do with the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which has had more than one million hits since Oct. 1, 2013, according to Nelly Kinsella, another panelist. The Exchange allows users to shop around for health plans.

Under the ACA, dental coverage is required for dependent children, but not for adults. Linda Lay of Delta Dental and another panelist, reiterated the fact that many diseases are caused by oral health problems. Lay said companies that include dental coverage as part of their benefits package generally see lower health insurance costs over time. Does your company offer dental coverage to its employees?

Another topic the panel discussed that could bring down health insurance costs was wellness programs. Wellness programs are controlled by each company, as long as they are legal. Wellness programs can take on many forms. Some companies buy gym memberships for their employees, while others organize a walking/running group. Kelly Stanford of Group Health said companies that can’t afford wellness programs can do little things around the office to help, like having healthy snacks around the office and providing incentives for positive health choices, for example.

Overall, our panelists agreed that companies should do all they can do educate themselves and prepare for the ACA’s mandates. Businesses should pay attention to the law’s progress before being caught off guard with new requirements.

UPDATE: Here’s video from the entire event:

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