More Changes and Clarifications for the Affordable Care Act - Again

Yet another set of regulations has just been issued, making substantial changes in what is called the “employer mandate”, or more correctly, the “employer responsibility provisions” of the ACA. In case the law was not complex enough already, these new regulations create further “wrinkles” which Union negotiators will have to know a bit about.

First, employers with fewer than 50 employees still have no mandated “responsibility” under the ACA, either to full time or to part time workers. That has not changed. (This includes about 96% of American businesses and about half of all workers employed in the USA.)

Second, employers with 100 or more employees still have until 2015 to provide affordable minimum value benefits to full time employees or face penalties.

But, employers with 50 through 99 employees have had their mandated “responsibility” postponed to 2016, before they face any penalties for failing to provide affordable minimum value benefits to full time employees.

And just as important, to avoid paying penalties, an employer need cover only 70% of its full time employees in 2015 and 95% in 2016. This could mean, for example, that large employers, in 2015, may cover only workers with 35 hours or more a week, but not the mandated 30 hours a week, depending on what 70% of its full time (30 hours or more a week, or 130 hours a month) employees work in terms of hours.

This newest set of regulations also confirms that seasonal employees are those who work generally work six months or less a year, and will not be considered full time no matter how many hours they work as seasonal employees.

In the field of education, the regulations clarify that teachers are not considered part timers or seasonals simply because their schools are closed in the summer; and adjunct faculty (lecturers, instructors, etc.) are allowed 2.25 hours of prep time for each hour of class time, so if an instructor teaches 3 3-hour courses a semester, he/she may still not be considered full time and entitled to benefits.

There are many more details to the newest changes, but these are some of the most important ones to know about right now. Each of these could conceivably affect bargaining for the next round of multi-year contracts.

By Bill Sokol | February 18, 2014

Legal Developments