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TONY WILSON: Comply with Health Care Reform mandates, even if penalty is suspended

Health Care Reform is changing — again.

You’ll recall we recently dedicated this space to discussing the PPACA requirement that employers — whether they offer health insurance coverage or not — are required to notify their full- and part-time employees of the Health Insurance Exchange (also referred to as the Marketplace) by Oct. 1.

While PPACA’s regulations did not identify a specific penalty for failing to comply with the Exchange Notice delivery requirement, the consensus has been that the general PPACA non- compliance penalty would likely apply. This penalty is $100 for each day the employer fails to comply.

Well, it appears some employers may not meet the requirement due to a recent post on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website. In essence, the posting, which can be found on www.dol.gov/ebsa/faqs/faq-noticeofcoverageoptions.html, states that employers who do not meet the requirement deadline of Oct. 1 will not be penalized for non-compliance.

That’s huge.

This law contains a multitude of new fees and non-compliance penalties (aimed at paying for many of the giveaways offered in the program). For the government to not charge a penalty with regard to this aspect of the law certainly is newsworthy in itself.

It didn’t take long for me to get that first phone call from someone saying, “Should I still send the notice if I’m not going to be fined for not sending the notice?”

My recommendation is yes. It is a requirement under the law.

Some have called and simply stated they are not going to send the notice. It’s their form of rebellion. It’s their way of fighting the system.

I understand the frustration with the law, and it is played out over and over in employer offices across our county, our state and our nation every day. Rules and regulations are issued by the federal government, a tremendous amount of resources are expended by employers and just as we are approaching a deadline the federal government changes the rules or takes some other action that leaves employers scratching their heads.

For example, the Exchange Notices initially were supposed to be sent to employees in the spring. Then, that was delayed until the fall. Then, employers were told the notices had to be delivered by Oct. 1 or they’d face a penalty. Now, the penalty does not apply.

While I am glad a penalty will not apply, for many employers this is simply the last straw, and they are tired of dealing with the federal government. Again, you may see employers express their displeasure or even rebellion by not sending the notice.

The project does require employer resources, especially if the employer opts for first class mail delivery, one of the approved delivery methods under the law.

To complete the notice, print the notice, fold and stuff the notice into envelopes, affix first class postage and then mail the notice to two employees or 2,000 employees takes time and costs money. Of course, none of these costs will be reimbursed by the federal government. (Another unfunded federal mandate?)

My recommendation to employers is that they send the notice out by Oct. 1. While it now appears that no penalty will apply, it is a requirement of the law, and it would be much easier to address the requirement and move on than to have the issue come back to bite you later.

Now, if you want to express your displeasure, frustration, anger or your satisfaction with the law, write your senator or congressperson! You can look him or her up at www.whoismyrepresentative.com.

Questions or comments? Feel free to e-mail me at twilson@nfp.com.

Tony L. Wilson is a principal with NUVISION Financial Corporation based in Conyers. NUVISION is a subsidiary of National Financial Partners Corp. (NFP), which provides benefits solutions for companies.