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Gear Up for Health Ins. Employer Mandate

Next year is a big year for the health insurance reform law enacted three years ago, but it’s this year that you might want to start thinking about what, if anything, you’ll need to do to get ready.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care act of 2010–what often gets referred to as Obamacare—includes an employer responsibility provison that might have an impact on you if you oversee a state or local association or brokerage.

This employer mandate, as it’s called, requires any employer with more than 50 full-time equivalent employees to provide health insurance for its employees. Right off the bat this would appear to rule out many if not most state and local associations of REALTORS®, because few associations have more than 50 employees. Same thing with brokerages, because many of them, while they might have 50 or more sales associates, don’t have quite that many employees. (Independent contractors aren’t counted as employees under the law.)

If you meet the eligibility threshold, you have to make insurance available to your employees and contribute to the cost of that coverage. Failure to do so means your employees have to get their own insurance (in one of the new “individual exchanges” that are being set up under the law), and you would be on the hook for penalties for the failure to provide affordable coverage.

The law does make a tax break available to small employers if you pick up employees’ insurance costs, and for employees who have to get their own insurance, some tax help is available there, too.

Even if you don’t meet the mandate’s employee threshold, it might make sense from a business standpoint to provide insurance, and depending on a number of factors, you might be able to provide relatively affordable coverage to your employees, especially when you factor in the tax break available to very small businesses.

There are other major aspects to the law that kick in next year, so you might consider meeting with an insurance broker or business adviser this year not only to understand what requirements you face but also what makes the most sense for you from a business standpoint.

In the 6-minute video above, Marcia Salkin, NARs managing director for legislative policy, and Robert Hay, associate director of policy for the American Society of Association Executives, talk about the employer mandate that kicks in next year and put other aspects of the law into a helpful context for you as you decide how the law affects your operations.

More from NAR on health care reform.

Health care reform FAQ.

Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is manager of multimedia communications for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. He can be reached at rfreedman@realtors.org.

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