You’re not mandated to offer your employees health insurance under the Affordable Care Act in 2014, but if you choose to, you may face some hurtles. Officials admit the Obamacare website, HealthCare.gov, intended to help small businesses and individuals browse and sign up for a plan, isn’t working properly.
No, businesses don’t have to provide healthcare for their employees until 2015. And, yes, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt.
But things are different if you work for a business that doesn’t provide insurance or are a self-employed solopreneur, and don’t currently have healthcare insurance. In either case, you’ll need to be insured by 2014 or face a penalty.
Some small businesses may also want to get started buying healthcare insurance for their employees a year early. Maybe they hope the new government established marketplace intended to create more competition among plans will make providing insurance more affordable than it’s been in the past.
Maybe they don’t want employees to have to go a year without insurance. Businesses with 50 or more full-time employees have to provide for employee healthcare anyway by 2015 or face a penalty.
The government is promising a fix to the faulty website and says it is working with experts to resolve the problem, USA Today reports.
Here’s how the online healthcare marketplace was supposed to work:
HealthCare.gov Should Provide Simplest Way to Enroll
Alternatives to online enrollment for individuals involves first writing in to find out whether you may be entitled to any assistance in affording a plan. Then you’ll need to contact a government call center by dialing 1-800-318-2596 where a customer service representative will help you sign up and enroll . (Of course, you must still check the website to look at what’s available so you will know what plan you want.)
You can also find local help to sign up and enroll by going to LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov and searching by city, state and zip code. (This worked quite well when I tried it and gave me 194 agencies and individuals in my area who could help me with the enrollment process.)
The trouble is that with time running out to enroll, the Obamacare website should provide the most hassle-free approach…if it was working properly, that is. The Obamacare website ought to offer a seamless sign up and enrollment process without the need for busy small business people to spend extra time on the phone or away from the office just to buy insurance.
Employees and self-employed workers who have no insurance have until March 31, 2014, the last day of enrollment, to sign up and avoid penalties for non-compliance, The Washington Post now reports.