The Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – is a tough nut to crack, except for those who are trying to specialize their career to their MBA. However for most of us, it is long and complicated and hard to find unbiased explanations. It challenges HR professionals – even those with advanced degrees.
- Implementation is partly a function of the number of employees at a business. The mandate requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees to provide health care insurance or pay a $2,000 penalty for each employee over the first 30 workers.
- Employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees are not required to provide healthcare – although the employees are required to seek insurance from a state exchange. Tax credits encourage the employer to offer insurance.
- Small companies may face increased health insurance premiums. What they can do is pool their interests with other small businesses to approach the SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program) for competitive rates.
Employees are considered full-time if they work 30 or more hours in a work week. Employers will certainly consider how to manage that status.
- They can stop hiring or creating new jobs.
- They can hire more employees and cut the hours of all employees below 30 hours.
- They can, under restrictions, outsource the work to independent contractors.
- They can co-employ with a Professional Employers Organization (PEO).
- They can lay off workers.
3. Employer options
There is evidence that some employers are pursuing these solutions. But, you have to look close.
- Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, and Target and other mega-employers have long depended on part-time employees.
- Corporations that value their workplace culture will find layoffs counter-productive.
- Collective labor agreements may prevent or forestall the implementation of some aspects of the ACA.
- Servers at national restaurant and convenience chains have no expectation of benefits.
- Employers will soon, if not immediately, return to differentiating themselves with supportive employee healthcare.
4. Employee options
Citizens are required to have health insurance coverage under the ACA – or risk being fined. This does not eliminate their options.
- Employees can find a new job at an employer providing health insurance at a rate affordable to the employee.
- They can pursue advancement to a full-time with an employer that enables that option.
- They can opt out of the workforce and allow the government to provide the coverage. However, as unemployed workers, they still have to comply with welfare restrictions.
There is so much political spin on Obamacare that it is difficult to plan or predict.
- If the economic recovery continues, employers will be reluctant to mess with what is working.
- Some jobs will be cut or reconfigured to part-time.
- Some aspects of the Affordable Care Act will be repealed or changed.
The majority of citizens will value key elements, such as the pre-existing condition coverage, the extended coverage for young adults staying at home, the cost controls on medical equipment, and performance monitoring of providers. And, the implementation is structured to roll out over time permitting the public to buy-in to the plan as an entitlement. HR pros need the continuing education to stay on top of the challenges.