KINGSPORT — Dozens of employers from around the region gathered at Meadowview Convention Center on Wednesday to try and better understand the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
After Jan. 1, 2015, employers will be required to either purchase insurance for their employees or pay a penalty, per employee, to the federal government. This stipulation was labeled as the “pay or play” requirement.
“The Affordable Care Act is a major piece of legislation,” said Steve Darden, a partner at the firm and chair of the Hunter, Smith and Davis Employment and Labor section. “We’re trying to help employers to be ready for the things that are coming, and also to remind them of the things that should have already happened in their workplaces.”
Darden said during the presentation that employers need to start making decisions about their health insurance coverage over the next year to be in compliance with the standards set forth by the new law. There is also a whole new language employers will need to learn with the ACA, such as full-time e q u i v a l e n c y.
The presentation was made as part of a labor and employment law seminar, called “Keeping your organization current and out of trouble,” which was presented by the law firm of Hunter, Smith & Davis. A seminar discussing the current workplace laws is put on every year by the law firm.
“We covered six topics that we consider important issues in terms of developments in 2013 and anticipated requirements in 2014,” Darden said. “Basically we do this, and have been doing them for 20 years, as a service to the business commun i t y. ”
Some of the topics included an update on discrimination laws, recent developments in Tennessee’s worker compensation law, immigration law and the Affordable Care Act, among others.
Darden said the presentation was mainly aimed at those businesses that have around 50 employees. According to the ACA, any business with more than 50 employees will be required by law to offer insurance. Any business with fewer than 50 employees does not have to offer health insurance.
“There are some methods of measuring your work force to decide if you have 50 employees or not,” Darden said. “If some employer is well below the 50 employee threshold, this law doesn’t apply to them. If those employers are well above the 50 employee threshold, then this law clearly does apply to them. If you hover around 50 ... there may be some wisdom as an employer in deciding how many employees do we have to have.”
Employers can be penalized in two ways: for not offering insurance or for not offering affordable health care to their employees.
Darden said his presentation only covered the parts of the law that applied to employers. He didn’t cover any of the aspects of the ACA law having to do with individuals or the individual mandate.
He also talked about some of the tax credits that small businesses can take advantage of and explained that the ACA is about health insurance, not health care.