[caption id="attachment_78491" align="alignnone" width="500"] The delay of the "pay vs. play" mandate until 2015 is especially good news for the wine industry, which employs large numbers of seasonal and part-time employees, particularly during harvest, according to one insurance expert. (image credit: Napa Valley Grapegrowers)[/caption]
Amid recent postponements in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), North Bay experts are trying to keep vintners, growers and other companies up to date with the rapidly changing health insurance environment.
Workshops are being held throughout the region to inform employers about the ACA -- such as one convened August 1 for the Sonoma County Vintner’s Association, sponsored by Vantreo Insurance Brokerage in cooperation with Kaiser Permanente.
Additional sessions are planned as ACA rules are revised, new insurance rates are released and start dates change.
For example, in July the White House announced that the ACA requirement that large employers offer affordable insurance to their workers in 2014 would be delayed one year.
A second delay was issued for the start of a process to verify incomes of people claiming eligibility for government subsidies in order to buy health insurance on state exchanges.'Pay or play' delay 'good news' for wine business
The latest change, revealed last week, delays implementation of rules governing how limits on out-of-pocket medical costs will be determined.
“Although many of the health care reform bill regulations won’t go into effect until 2014 or beyond, employers need to begin addressing issues now to continue to offer meaningful employee benefits and compensation plans,” said John Fradelizio, managing director of North Bay employee benefits for Wells Fargo Insurance Services USA, Inc. “In coming years costs will escalate, tax incentives will change and compliance rules will continue to evolve. It is important to begin creating proactive strategies for minimizing employee health benefit costs by comparing coverage options while also meeting business objectives.”
The one-year delay until Jan. 1, 2015 of the “pay or play” mandate, for large employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent (FTE) workers to offer health coverage, gives employers more breathing room.
Mr. Fradelizio said this delay is especially good news for the wine industry that employs large numbers of seasonal and part-time employees, as well as for small retail and hospitality businesses. He said if this requirement had become effective in 2014, it would have had a negative impact on health care costs for these groups.
To determine part-time status, take hours worked by all designated part-time employees in a month, and dividing that amount by 120. Seasonal workers are not counted in this calculation for those working up to 120 days in a year.
“Leading up to 2015, businesses with over 50 employees need to track hours closely for those working less than 30 hours a week to make sure their hours don’t creep up,” said Victor McKnight, principal with EPIC, a retail property and casualty and employee benefits insurance brokerage firm.
“If workers exceed 30 hours, employers may need to offer them coverage for six to 12 months. The whole process of change is complex and employers should consult with their insurance carriers for guidance,” Mr. McKnight said.
“Winery owners, for example, with fewer than 50 employees who also own another business with additional workers, could have to combine both employee totals when determining insurance exposure,” he added.