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Life Health > Health Insurance

What can the boss tell workers about the exchanges?

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The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has given employers a government-approved document that they can use to tell workers about the new health insurance exchange system today, before final guidance comes out.

EBSA, an arm of the U.S. Department of Labor, talks about the new model notice, and a related model COBRA health benefits continuation notice, in Technical Release Number 2013-02.

The Patient  Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work with states to set up exchanges, or Web-based health insurance supermarkets, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia by Oct. 1.

PPACA Section 1512 added an employer exchange notice requirement — Section 18B of the Fair Standards Labor Act (FLSA).

FLSA Section 18B requires employers to start telling workers about the new exchange system by March 1, 2013.

In January, EBSA said it would push back the date when employer notice date, because federal agencies needed more time to work out exchange details.

Since January, the Labor Department “has received several requests from employers for a model notice on an earlier timeframe so that they may be able to inform their employees now about the upcoming coverage options,” EBSA officials said in the new technical release. 

Employers can use notices based on the new, temporary model notice to tell workers about the exchange system up until Oct. 1, officials said.

For employers that provide medical benefits, the model notice includes a one-page description of the exchange program along with a two-page form that a worker could use to start the process of gathering the information that would be needed to apply for coverage through an exchange.

Employers that provide no medical benefits can provider a version of the notice that includes a much shorter form.

Federal officials call the exchange program “The Marketplace.”

In the model notice form, officials describe The Marketplace as a program that “offers ‘one-stop shopping’ to find and compare private health insurance options.”

“You may also be eligible  for a new kind of tax credit that lowers your monthly premium right away,” according to the notice. “You may qualify to save money and lower your monthly premium, but only if your employer does not offer coverage, or offers coverage that doesn’t meet certain standards.”

The new version of the COBRA notice — which is provided in a document in the Microsoft Word format — notes that workers who are leaving their jobs and are eligible to keep their coverage through COBRA may also want to consider buying individual coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

“When key parts of the health care law take effect, you’ll be able to buy coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace,” according to the new COBRA notice. “In the Marketplace, you could be eligible for a new kind of tax credit that lowers your monthly premiums.” 

EBSA lists Amy Turner and Elizabeth Schumacher as the officials handling questions about the new model notices.

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