The Affordable Care Act (ACA) effectively opened up access to healthcare for millions of Americans. And while the work of many to enact ACA was finished years ago, the processes of auditing and reporting only began in 2016. Many of these changes will also impact the planning of healths benefits packages. As such, businesses need to take steps in the immediate future to ensure proper compliance in 2017 and beyond. Otherwise, these organizations could face potentially hefty fines from the Internal Revenue Service.
Here are a few essential tips to begin promoting ACA compliance within your company:
Tackle any errors
As mentioned above, IRS penalties are now more likely to be imposed on employers who aren't in compliance. For the most part, the IRS was lenient throughout 2016 if there were issues with forms like 1094-C and 1095-C. However, 2017 is when the good faith is set aside, and companies must be able address these issues with reporting. Part of compliance involves making space for thorough review and addressing any errors with processing or coding. Employers might also want to consider placing the 1095-C forms online. That way, there are no costs for distribution, and employees can opt in on their own time.
Track condition incentives
As part of the larger ACA plan, a series of pre-existing, health-centric acts received expanded coverage. Specifically, 2017 will see new condition incentives in both the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Effectively, the changes apply to both spouses and employees, and companies must be in compliance in terms of notification of the enrolled and to design a wellness plan as outlined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Most of the affected programs involve things like injuries stemming from disabilities, medical exams and health risk assessments, among others.
Expand wellness plans
In addition to expanding coverage and benefits from acts like the ADA and GINA, the ACA also involves anew mental health parity. Benefits plans must touch on issues like substance use disorders and overall mental health, including mood and personality disorders. Aside from choosing vendors that can handle these MH/SUD benefits, companies must also be aware that there could be regular audits by the U.S. Department of Labor as MH parity is enforced. Much of the same applies to preventative care, and there are now grandfathered plans for cost-free options. Preventative care includes things like contraceptive requests and early screening colonoscopies.
Engage with employees
A large percentage of ACA compliance also involves a few important updates for employees. Businesses must identify all full-time employees, which helps determine the minimum essential coverage. The IRS has provided a helpful formula, and involves hours of non-full-time employees divided by 2,080. From there, employers must ensure they have proof of coverage for all full-time employees, and that means tracking dates and keeping the accompanying documents and information in one easy-to-access folder. Finally, employees need to be properly educated, including how to use new 1095 tax forms and what to expect from the filing process.
Be ready to integrate
In early 2016, a handful of professional organizations examined the compliance-related issues shared by many executives. Each such professional found that the bulk of these business leaders were fearful that their company wasn't going to be ACA compliant. Primarily because these organizations didn't have the means to integrate data from other systems, including HR, benefits and payroll. That's why it's so important companies have a third-party service, especially one who can offer cloud-based HR solutions to ensure proper access and document/information sharing. These cloud-based systems are also less of a financial drain, leaving the focus on information-reporting and integration.
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