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Home  »  Nation/World  »  AP Wire

‘Obamacare’ deadline nears for employers

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Carol Ryan Dumas
Ag employers have been told they are required to notify employees about health insurance marketplaces by Oct. 1. But according to the U.S. Department of Labor there are no fines or penalties for noncompliance.

Capital Press

Most agricultural employers, regardless of the size of their workforce or whether they have a health insurance plan, are required under the Affordable Care Act to inform employees of their ability to purchase health insurance by Oct. 1.

The U.S. Department of Labor states that information must be provided in the form of an “Exchange Notice,” notifying employees of the existence of a health insurance marketplace in their state.

But while employers are legally required to provide the notice, there is no fine or penalty under the law if they don’t, according the department.

DOL officials provided Capital Press with links to its website, but a DOL spokesperson has not responded to follow-up questions.

DOL noted that under current guidelines of the Paperwork Reduction Act, a federal agency cannot conduct or sponsor a collection of information unless it is approved by the Office of Management and Budget.

The confusion over the exchange notice requirement came from DOL’s initial document on the issue, said Pat Wolff, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Affordable Care Act specialist. DOL later revised the requirement, stating ag employers “should” provide the notification but there are no fines or penalties for noncompliance.

Farm Bureau doesn’t have a position on whether ag employers should provide the notification to employees, but passed on to its members the requirement in DOL’s initial document, she said.

If ag employers do provide that information, it would be considered a service, she said.

The organization is currently trying to reconcile DOL’s differing statements and decide if it should modify its message to members.

DOL states the notice must be provided to all current and new full- and part-time employees, including H2A workers and seasonal employees.

In guidance to its members, Farm Bureau initially recommended that farm employers also provide the notice to workers hired through a farm labor contractor in case they are deemed to be the employer.

DOL states the exchange notice must:

• Inform employees of the existence of a health insurance marketplace in the employer’s state and provide the name and contact information of that exchange.

• Include a description of the services provided by the state’s marketplace.

• Inform employees that they might be eligible for premium tax credits if they choose to purchase health coverage on the exchange.

• Inform employees that if they purchase coverage through the exchange, they might lose the employer contribution to any health benefit plans offered by the employer, and that all or a portion of such contributions might be excludable from income for federal income tax purposes.

For employees hired after Oct. 1, the exchange notice must be provided within 14 days of their start date.

Farm Bureau also recommended that employers provide a written notice, via first-class mail or personal delivery, and require employees to sign a document acknowledging receipt.

Employers are solely responsible for the cost of providing the notice. Employers are not required to provide notices to dependents or other individuals who are eligible for coverage under a health plan but who are not employees.

In general, the notice requirement applies to employers who employ one or more employees who are engaged in or produce goods for interstate commerce.

For more information

To determine applicability, visit:

www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/scope/screen24.asp.

Model language is available at:

http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/healthreform/.

State health insurance marketplaces

California — Covered California:

http://www.coveredca.com/ info@coverdca.com (800) 300-1506

Idaho — Your Health Idaho:

http://www.yourhealthidaho.org/ (855) 944-3246

Oregon — Cover Oregon:

http://www.coveroregon.com/ info@coveroregon.com (755) 263-3767

Washington — Washington Healthplanfinder:

http://www.wahealthplanfinder.org/ (855) 923-4633



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