Small Business and Obamacare FAQ: Assistance, Benefits Communications and Wellness Grants

By Anne Manners

Small Business and Obamacare FAQ: Assistance, Benefits Communications and Wellness GrantsAs the first open enrollment period for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — also known as PPACA, or popularly as Obamacare — looms on the calendar, small businesses are scrambling for assistance when it comes to navigating the law. A host of filing requirements and deadlines can be intimidating as the fall open enrollment period approaches, and many small business owners are focused on what they perceive as arduous requirements. Fortunately, the act itself mandates assistance for many aspects of the new law, and business managers will find that help is available. Last week we covered health care insurance exchanges in the first of our four-part series summarizing key elements of Gallagher Benefit Services’ extensive Obamacare FAQ that addresses common questions employers have about the law.

Here are some other options you should know about:

Assistance for Small Businesses

The Small Business Premium Tax Credit gets a lot of attention, and it should. For small and very small employers, it can provide some great benefits. If you are a small employer with fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees and average annual wages of $50,000 or less, and you pay at least half of the cost of purchased coverage for your employees, there is a premium subsidy available. If you are a very small employer with 10 or fewer employees and an average annual wage of $25,000 or less, there are additional subsidies. In addition, credits can apply to nonprofit or tax-exempt employers.

For 2010 through 2013, the credit is 35 percent of your contribution toward the premiums. And after 2013, premium tax credits for up to two years will be available for businesses that use the exchanges to buy their coverage. These credits include coverage for dental, vision, long-term care, nursing home care, home health care and other options, so be sure to check into this possibility as you navigate the act.

Help with Employee Benefits Communications

As part of the PPACA, employers must provide a Summary of Benefits and Coverage — or SBC — to their employees. But you don’t have to go it alone. Group health plans and insurers must provide the SBC to you within a mandated timeline, and there are rules for how they communicate the SBC to you. As the employer, you are responsible for distributing them to your employees. If you are self-funded, however, you are responsible for creating the SBC yourself, although you can hire a third party to help you with it as long as it follows requirements outlined in the PPACA.

Wellness Grants

Part of the purpose of the PPACA is to level the playing field between small businesses and large ones when it comes to purchasing insurance options for employees. Benefits such as wellness programs were more often seen at larger employers, but under the PPACA, grants are available to help small businesses set up wellness programs. While the details have not yet been established, the act provides for grants up to five years for employers with fewer than 100 employees who work 25 or more hours per week to establish new wellness programs. (Small employers with existing programs as of March 23, 2010, are not eligible under this provision.)

MyBackOffice is an HR administration outsourcing firm that specializes in providing small businesses with access to kind of high-quality HR services and group benefits that usually only the biggest employers enjoy. Contact us to learn how the MBO team can save you time and hassle, allowing you to focus on what you love the most — building your company.

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