The Department of Labor last week announced rules for notifying employees about the public health care exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act. Initially scheduled for release on March 1, this highly-anticipated guidance applies to all employers subject to the FLSA (which is almost all employers) whether they offer a health plan.
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This guidance is considered temporary, but will apply until the DOL releases other regulations or guidance.
What the Exchange Notice Should Contain
Both versions of the model notice contain the following:
- Information describing the existence of the Marketplace, services available, and how to contact the Marketplace
- Statement that an employee may be eligible for a premium credit if their employer covers less than 60% of plan costs
- Explanation that if the employee shops on the exchange, they may lose any employer contribution to the plan offered by the employer, but that this may be excluded from income for tax purposes
Companies that offer coverage will also have to include information on which employees are eligible for coverage through the employer-sponsored plan as well as whether the plan meets the minimum value and affordability requirements.
An optional section also allows the employer to share information about future eligibility, plan premiums, and anticipated changes for the upcoming plan year. Employers may use the exact models provided by the DOL or a modified version, provided the notice contains the above information.
When and How the Exchange Notice Must Be Distributed
Employers also must notify ALL current employees no later than October 1, 2013, whether with the DOL forms or a modified version. Starting October 1, employers must also notify new employees within 14 days of their start date. Employers are NOT required to provide a separate notice to dependents or others who are (or may become) eligible for coverage under the plan but who are not employees.
The Department of Labor calls for the health exchange notice to be provided in writing, automatically, and at no cost. The notice may be sent by first-class mail, or it may be delivered electronically if the employer follows the DOL guidelines on electronic disclosure.