Repeal and replace — or repeal and repair, as some are now calling it — continues to be a confusing matter for restaurateurs and hoteliers. Republicans recently released an Affordable Care Act (ACA) replacement plan, referred to as the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which seeks to remove some of the employer obligations. But the bill has a long road ahead of it before it can be signed into law.
In the meantime, employers need to know how to weather the changing landscape of health care compliance, reporting, and reform.
Luckily, the immediate path is clearer than the long term. In this article, SyncStream Solutions will discuss how, with the right knowledge, practices, and technology, the hospitality industry should be able to survive the changing health care laws with little fanfare.
The 2016 reporting season will stay put
The most important fact through all of this uncertainty is that the 2016 reporting season, due to conclude March 31, is still in place. Because of this, employers are expected to move forward with distribution of the 1095-C (which should have been completed by March 2), as well as filing these forms with the IRS.
The 1095-C form, still relatively new, is notoriously tricky to fill out due to its many alphanumerical codes and the challenge of tracking which variable-hour employees need the form in the first place.
Most of the information you need should already be stored and updated on some kind of payroll or benefits management system, but for hospitality businesses with many variable-hour employees, this isn’t always enough to figure out who qualifies for coverage as an ACA full-time employee and who doesn’t.
Investing in an intelligent solution that can catalogue, interpret, and file this information properly will help ease the process and ensure accountability when reporting season comes to a close. Using such a solution is a reliable way to ensure auditability and escape unnecessary penalties.
Health care has a lot of moving pieces
After this reporting season closes, things get a little more complicated.
The proposed replacement plan is set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2018, though it is likely to endure many changes by that time. In its initial form, the AHCA would eliminate the penalty for failing to provide minimum essential coverage to employees, effectively repealing the employer mandate. But, to be eligible for proposed new tax credits, employers would still be responsible for reporting. All that this means is that you should stay on top of your reporting requirements — track hours, the number of full-time employees, who gets offered health care, and hiring/firing dates — to make the transition as seamless as possible.
Even with a replacement plan on the table, employers should be wary. The AHCA faces stiff opposition both from outside and within the Republican Party, making it far from a sure thing. It could be many months (or longer) before a repeal bill is passed, and even longer until it goes into effect, keeping the ACA requirements in place for another reporting year.
It’s safe to assume that, in order to fulfill and track lawmakers’ promise of affordable insurance available to everyone, there will be some kind of reporting requirement for employers under the new health care laws. If the federal government expects everyone to have access to health care, and is prepared to issue tax credits, as has been proposed, it will need a way to track that.
For employers, this will likely mean maintaining some, if not all, of the data currently being tracked and reported to the IRS. Because of this, your payroll, HR, and intelligent solution technology is just as crucial as ever to easily tracking this data, your employee health care policies, and the full- versus part-time status of your employees.
As the law changes, so will the tech
The ACA in its current form may be going away, but reporting requirements will not. Current solutions intelligently programmed to handle ACA requirements should be able to adapt to whatever new twists that health care reform decides to take. Many of the pieces that need to be tracked will likely remain the same, even if the codes, regulations, and language shift. So don’t wait out the reform — adopt a solution now that can handle current reporting and compliance documentation and bridge over to future reporting requirements, and you’ll most likely be able to stick with it even as the law changes.
If you’re struggling to keep up with compliance in these unstable times, consider investing in something beyond your typical payroll technology. While simple payroll tech is certainly a helpful start, solutions attuned to the current state of health care law will be ready to adapt in the face of change.