As part of the Employers for Flexibility in Health Care Coalition (E-FLEX), ABC March 15 submitted comments to the Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in response to a Dec. 28 proposed rule on the employer shared responsibility provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The employer shared responsibility provisions generally go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, and impact employers that have at least 50 full-time employees or a combination of full-time and part-time employees that is equivalent to at least 50 full-time employees. 

ABC and the members of the E-FLEX Coalition are strong supporters of employer-sponsored coverage and have been working to ensure it remains a competitive option for all full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees. 

In the comments, the coalition noted that employers of all sizes are concerned about implementing the employer requirements under PPACA and about how to communicate these changes to their employees. The group expressed appreciation for the limited transition relief in the proposed rule, but pointed out that all employers who offer health benefits need transition time to adjust to the significant changes required under PPACA. The coalition also pointed out that employers are still missing key pieces of guidance needed to construct their systems, make plan design changes and communicate with their employees. As such, E-FLEX suggested using 2014 as a transition period for all employers offering health coverage.

In addition, E-FLEX noted that greater consideration needs to be given to smaller employers who must perform the required calculation each year to determine if they are an applicable large employer (at least 50 “full-time equivalents”). 

“We appreciate that smaller employers may use a period of six consecutive calendar months in 2013 to determine their large employer status, but this gives them inadequate time to take all the necessary steps to be able to set up and offer plans by Jan. 1, 2014,” the coalition wrote.

Instead, E-FLEX advocated for additional guidance and transition relief for smaller employers because the definitions and deadlines are having a strong detrimental effect on their ability to hire, manage their workforce, and prepare to offer coverage.

E-FLEX also noted open enrollment for health insurance exchanges – marketplaces where individuals and small businesses can purchase private health insurance – is only a few months away. According to the coalition, employers need to understand how they will interact with the exchanges and what data they will be required to capture and report to the IRS. 

“A significant outreach effort to the employer community is needed to mitigate any unintended consequences as implementation of the law continues,” the coalition wrote. “For example, many employers remain confused about the use of full-time equivalents versus full-time employees, the methodologies to measure employees as full-time at 30 hours and how to design their plans to meet the new coverage standards. We encourage the administration to acknowledge the need for employer education and make every effort to help employers understand the employer mandate and their obligations under the law.”

Other key areas of concern the E-FLEX Coalition highlighted in their comments were related to:
  • Seasonal employees;
  • Re-hire rules;
  • Affordability;
  • Wellness programs;
  • Minimum value; and
  • Non-discrimination.