Major elements of the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — are set to be implemented very soon, causing many people in Connecticut and New York to ask exactly how the health reform law is likely to affect different parts of the labor market.
This far-reaching health reform is expected to affect the business world, and the temporary staffing market in particular, in various ways. Some experts believe that companies above a certain size will have difficulty with the requirement of insuring full-time employees. Some small and medium-sized businesses may cut hours, lay off employees, or raise prices to cover higher costs. Others may turn to temporary employees in order to stay below the ceiling of 50 salaried employees — the number at which the Affordable Care Act’s rules kick in. (Temporary and contract workers retained through a third-party staffing agency are considered employees of the staffing firm, which is responsible for dealing with the Affordable Care Act’s mandates.)
At Merritt Staffing, we’ll do our best to answer your questions as they apply to your own temporary staffing issues. In the meantime, here are a few questions we’ve heard in recent weeks about the Affordable Care Act, along with a brief explanation. The Affordable Care Act is pretty complex, but one of its goals is to make it easy to obtain healthcare coverage. Our answers below should be enough to get you started.
What is the Affordable Care Act?
The Affordable Care Act is the most sweeping health care legislation the United States has experienced in decades. Among its many requirements is that is that states must set up Health Insurance Exchanges to offer health insurance policies to those who don’t have them.
What are the Health Insurance Exchanges?
The Health Insurance Exchanges are state-specific online marketplaces where qualified individuals and small businesses can shop for subsidized insurance using side-by-side price-and-benefit comparisons. In Connecticut, the online exchange website is called Access Health CT; New York’s is called NY State of Health. Customers will also be able to access the exchanges using the phone, by mail and at certain locations in person.
When will the Affordable Care Act healthcare policies become available?
The exchanges opened in October 2013, but insurance purchased on the exchange doesn’t become effective until 2014. Open enrollment for 2014 ends on March 31, 2014.
In the meantime, certain parts of The Affordable Care Act have already become law. For example, your child can remain on your insurance until he or she turns 26 (even if they don’t live with you). There are some upcoming changes expected, including the fact that pre-existing health conditions can no longer cause you to be declined on individual health insurance.
What are the “tiers” of the exchange?
You may see up to four healthcare plan categories: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Each one offers a different premium level (the subscriber’s base cost) and a different actuarial value (the percentage of medical costs that are paid by the insurance company). Not every healthcare provider has to offer each tier of plan; however, all health insurance companies must offer at least one Silver plan and one Gold plan.
If I choose not to have insurance, what will my penalty be?
Unless you have a very low taxable income (classified as less than 133% of the federal poverty level), the penalty for not having insurance is charged when your taxes are due. The penalty level depends on your income and the number of people in your family. The penalty amounts get higher every year. Details can be found on Access Health CT and NY State of Health.
What are the tax credits and how do I get them?
Tax credits help lower the cost of healthcare premiums for low-income and middle-income individuals and families that make between 133% and 400% of the federal poverty level. These tax credits are only available for plans purchased through the Health Insurance Exchanges.
How much would I pay for insurance in the exchange?
Costs will depend on a number of factors. The best way to obtain detailed pricing is to evaluate the plans on the Health Insurance Exchanges.
What if I choose to go to use the exchange but my employer offers a health insurance plan?
You always have the right to decline your employer’s coverage and to purchase individual insurance on the exchange. If your employer offers group health coverage and the amount that you pay for your premium contribution is 9.5% or less than the amount listed on your Form W-2 (box 1), then you will not qualify for a subsidy or a premium tax credit.
While the Health Insurance Exchanges are great resources, Merritt Staffing is available to help our partners as well as our contract workers and temporary staffers navigate these uncharted waters. Feel free to call us or ask a question using our website form.
About Merritt Staffing
Founded in 1989, Merritt Staffing specializes in filling entry-level to middle-management positions in Westchester, Fairfield and New Haven counties. Our staffing and payroll services fill a variety of employment needs, including part-time, full-time, temporary staffing, temp-to-hire and direct-hire positions.