To get credit for offering “minimum essential coverage,” employers must offer the coverage in such a way that workers can really sign up for the coverage.
Otherwise, workers can say they have no access to MEC and apply for Affordable Care Act exchange plan premium tax credit subsidies, according to officials at the Internal Revenue Service.
In some cases, if the workers apply for, and get, ACA exchange plan premium subsidies, the employer may have to pay large ACA “employer shared responsibility” penalties, even though the employer appears to offer some kind of theoretical access to health coverage.
Officials at the IRS give that interpretation of the ACA premium tax credit program rules in a new answer to a question about the program.
The ACA strongly encourages employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees to provide MEC (which is usually pronounced “meck”). MEC is supposed to be “affordable coverage with a minimum value,” or solid, affordable major medical coverage.
In one question in the new IRS guidance, someone asks the IRS about an employer, X, that offers “affordable, minimum-value coverage” but has stated that it will “terminate the employee’s employment” if the employee tries to sign up for the coverage.
Because Employer X says it will fire the employee if the employee signs up for the MEC plan, the “employee cannot enroll in X’s coverage and is not considered eligible for X’s employer-sponsored coverage,” IRS officials say.