The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been a heated source of debate for the American public since first proposed as legislation by the Obama administration. Although it has been met with some fierce opposition, it was signed into law by President Obama in March of 2010 and survived a Supreme Court challenge in June of 2012. The promise of the ACA is to provide health care to hundreds of thousands of low income families and people with pre-existing conditions who would normally be denied coverage.
The date that the ACA goes into effect is quickly approaching (January 1, 2014) meaning that there are legal changes that both individuals and businesses must be aware of. Employers must be conscious of their legal obligations in terms of providing health care coverage and employees should know which new benefits they are entitled to.
At the individual level, with certain exceptions, the ACA mandates that every person in the United States have a minimum essential coverage of health insurance. If individuals do not comply, they will be subject to annually increasing government fines equaling $95.00 in 2014, $350.00 in 2015, and $750.00 in 2016, with these amounts halved for each adult over eighteen years old in the household.
Under this act, large employers, who employ fifty or more full time employees (defined as working more than 30 hours per week), are required by law to provide these employees with access to affordable healthcare coverage. If employers do not comply, they are subject to cost sharing payments or nondeductible excise taxes. However, it should be noted that employers with less than fifty employees are not subject to these taxes if they do not provide affordable coverage.
These new mandates will likely result in higher costs for large employers who must now provide health care coverage to their full time employees, meaning that some employers may try to illegally evade these expenditures. If you believe that you are not receiving the benefits that you are entitled to under the ACA, there are specific whistleblower provisions that will protect you from employer retaliation if you choose to report your employer.
It is unlawful for employers to retaliate against employees who receive subsidies (resulting in shared cost payments for the employer), report ACA violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), testify or assist in proceedings for an ACA violation, or object to an ACA violation. If you are an employee who has been retaliated against for receiving the benefits you are legally entitled to, contact an experienced lawyer who can help you bring a complaint against your employer.