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Chamber of Commerce to present health care mandate update

Group to explain new reforms at meeting

POSTED: August 4, 2014 1:03 a.m.

The full rollout of the Affordable Care Act is far from complete, as area businesses and residents will learn at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s annual health care reform update set for Aug. 12.

The chamber has planned for several speakers to talk about what’s current with the controversial law and what’s ahead in coming years. Among the group is Rich Sanders, an Atlanta lawyer who will talk about tax penalties and “Play or Pay” rules for 2015.

“Play or Pay” is also known as the employer mandate, which requires businesses with 100 or more “full-time equivalent” employees to offer insurance coverage to 70 percent of their workers for 2015. Under the law, a full-time employee is defined as someone who works at least 30 hours per week.

Failure to offer coverage subjects the business to a possible tax penalty.

Businesses with 50 to 99 workers will have to comply in 2016.

Many organizations “have moved to a Dec. 1 (insurance) renewal date to put off complying” with the law, said Brett Fowler, vice president and partner of Gainesville’s Turner, Wood and Smith, one of the event sponsors.

He expects businesses “will have a lot of questions on should they ... keep their group plan or go to individual plans,” he said. “We’ll hit on that as far as what we’re seeing. We haven’t seen many groups doing away with group plans to go the individual route.”

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees aren’t required to offer employee health coverage plans through the Small Business Health Options Program Marketplace.

One of the law’s most contested parts is the requirement that all Americans must have insurance or face tax penalties, known as the individual mandate.

Those without insurance face “fees” of 1 percent of yearly income or $95, whichever is higher, when they file their 2014 federal taxes.

The fee rises each year. By 2016, the penalty is 2.5 percent of income or $695 per person, whichever is higher.

Many Americans can meet the law’s requirement by keeping or getting insurance through their workplace, through Medicare, a federal health program that pays for some of the medical and hospital expenses of people older than 65 using Social Security money, and Medicaid, a public health program funded by the U.S. and state governments for people who meet low-income guidelines.

Another option is seeking coverage through the federal government’s website,, which was troubled by delays and glitches last year. Tax credits are available for those who qualify based on income.

Open enrollment for 2015 coverages begins Nov. 15.

Legal battles over limiting premium subsidies to residents in states that offer their own insurance exchange has been a hot topic nationally and could surface at the chamber forum.

“We won’t have a resolution to that (for a while),” Fowler said. “That’ll be a long, ongoing battle.”

Also, wellness incentives as part of insurance plans will be discussed.

“That was one of the main things added this year based on company feedback,” Fowler said.

The moderator for the seminar is David Miller, associate professor at Brenau University.

Also sponsoring the event is the Northeast Georgia Health System, Brenau, Rushton & Co. and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.


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