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Business owners still learning affordable care act ins, outs

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By JAMES E. CASTO
For The State Journal

HUNTINGTON — The "play or pay" employer mandate of the federal Affordable Care Act has been delayed until 2015, but is by no means dead. 

Thus, now — not next month or next year — is the time for businesses to determine if "play or pay" and other provisions of the act impact them, Jamie L. Leary told a group of local business people at a Nov. 8 briefing. 

Leary, a former Yeager Scholar at Marshall University, is an attorney with Steptoe & Johnson PLLC, in Wheeling, where she counsels corporate clients on a wide variety of employee benefits issues.

Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce President Cathy Burns said the Chamber invited Leary to speak after fielding numerous inquiries from members concerned about how the ACC might impact them. 

The "play or pay" mandate, Leary explained, means that as an employer you must either offer insurance to your employees or pay a non-deductible penalty each year. 

The mandate exempts many small businesses, as it applies only to companies with more than 50 employees. 

"But that can be tricky," she cautioned, citing an example of three companies, each with 18 employees. 

Because the three companies share a set of common owners, the government might determine the three are in fact one entity, and thus deemed to have more than 50 employees. 

Leary said employers also should be aware that as of 2014 the ACA dictates important changes in all insurance plans. For example, coverage must be offered for all adult children up to age 26 and there can be no limits on pre-existing health conditions. 

The ACA requires all individuals must maintain "minimum essential coverages" in an insurance plan. This can be through government-sponsored care, an employer or private plan. If you don't have one of these, you will have to pay a monetary penalty. Premium assistance will be available for some individuals who purchase insurance in government-sponsored marketplaces.