Hidden Mystery Behind Obamacare 2017 Open Enrollment: What Business Owners Should Know

What Every Small Business Owner Should Know About Obamacare 2017 Open Enrollment

Open enrollment began November 1 under The Affordable Care Act (ACA). It lasts until December 15.

There are some implications for small businesses as the ACA gets buffeted by attempts to change or repeal it.

Finding a path through the maze of items like the calls to end cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments can be confusing.  That’s why we’ve put together a straightforward overview of what small business needs to know.

Obamacare 2017 Open Enrollment

Marcie O’Dwyer, Vice President, Strategic Relationships for SyncStream, spoke with Small Business Trends about what small businesses need to know about the ongoing open enrollment period. SyncStream is an ACA and EEOC compliance provider.

Layered or Changed Timeframes to Cause Enrollment Delays?

The first change is the timeframe for open enrollment has been shortened. Before President Donald Trump took office, open enrollment lasted until January 31. Now it ends December 15.  This affects employees looking for a plan on a federal marketplace who aren’t covered by any small business health plans.

This marketplace is full of plans. Research shows 8 out of 10 Americans can find a plan for less than $75 a month.

There’s a possibility to get penalized here if you’re a considered applicable large employer (ALEs) and your employees aren’t offered coverage but they get a subsidized version. ALEs are companies with 50 full-time workers who work at least 30 hours a week. Small businesses that fit this bill also need to meet minimum essential coverage (MEC) or affordability requirements.

There’s another bump in the road small businesses.

Employer Enrollment

“In addition to open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employers have their own open enrollment for the groups’ sponsored health plan,” O’Dwyer says. “The timeframes for employer open enrollment periods may differ.”

Scrapped Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) Payments and Cost Spikes

President Trump signed an executive order Oct 12 to scrap these. These CSRs were essentially a discount on deductibles, co-insurance and co-payments. Without them in place, there could very well be more instability in the individual marketplace, according to O’Dwyer.

Another implication here is individual insurance exchanges could be ruined and healthcare bills could soar costing small businesses even more.

No Copper Plans to Offer Relief

Copper plans won’t be available for open enrollment until 2019. These are catastrophic plans small business owners were hoping to see in open enrollment this year. They are seen as a good way to offer low cost coverage. As it stands, they’re not even a sure thing for 2019.

 Status Quo for Reporting Mandates and Penalties

All ACA reporting mandates are still in place. So are the penalties. O’Dwyer spells it out in a way small businesses can’t help but hear.

“The IRS expects to collect $228 billion worth of ACA penalties for the 2017 reporting season. This step by the IRS signifies that mistakes will no longer be tolerated as an acceptable excuse for non-compliance,” she says. “Employers must get their data in order now to avoid facing steep penalties later.”

Image: HealthCare.gov Comment ▼

Rob Starr Rob Starr is a staff writer for Small Business Trends. Rob is a freelance journalist and content strategist/manager with three decades of experience in both print and online writing. He currently works in New York City as a copywriter and all across North America for a variety of editing and writing enterprises.

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