BACKGROUND
The Affordable Care Act requires that employers must provide each employee a written notice for current employees and at the time of hire that explains their rights to enroll in the Exchanges/Marketplace.

WHAT IS THE MARKETPLACE?

The Marketplace is designed to help individuals find health insurance that meet their needs. The Marketplace offers the ability to find and compare private health insurance options. Open enrollment for health insurance coverage through the Marketplace is scheduled to begin October 2013 for coverage starting as early as January 1, 2014.

WHAT IS MY REQUIREMENT AS AN EMPLOYER?
All employers must provide a notice of coverage options to each employee regardless of plan enrollment status or part-time or full-time status. New employees will be required to receive one upon hire within 14 days of the employee’s start of employment.

Employers are not required to provide a separate notice to dependents or other individuals who are or may become eligible for coverage under the plan as non-employees.

WHEN MUST THE NOTICES BE DISTRIBUTED TO EMPLOYEES?
The written notice must be provided by employers at the time of hiring or for current employees before Oct. 1, 2013 and it must be provided free of charge.

WHERE CAN WE FIND THE MODEL NOTICES?
Two Model Notices were created by the DOL. One Model Notice is for employers that do not offer a health plan and one is for employers that offer a health plan for some or all employees.

1) The Model Notice for employers with a plan is available at: http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/FLSAwithplans.pdf

2) The Model Notice for employers without a plan is available at: http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/FLSAwithoutplans.pdf

CAN WE SEND THE NOTICE ELECTRONICALLY?
Yes. The Model Notice can be sent to the employee by first class mail electronically. If the employer opts to send the Model Notice electronically, it must meet the same requirements for electronic distribution of ERISA plan disclosures. Generally, if done in accordance with the DOL’s electronic disclosure safe harbor regulations, notices can be distributed as follows:

* Those employees who use a computer as part of their normal job function, or
* Those employees who have consented to electronic delivery in a manner that demonstrates they can effectively receive the electronic delivery.

The employer may also include the Model Notice in new hire packets, annual enrollment materials, and use other existing communications that will be delivered in the manner and timeframe required by the DOL safe harbor.

MODEL COBRA NOTICE REVISED
Under COBRA, an individual who was covered by a group health plan on the day before a qualifying event occurred (such as termination of employment or reduction in hours that causes loss of coverage under the plan) must be able to elect COBRA continuation coverage. Individuals with such a right are called Qualified Beneficiaries. A group health plan must provide Qualified Beneficiaries with an election notice, which describes their rights to continuation coverage and how to make an election. The election notice must be provided to these individuals within 14 days of when the plan administrator receives the notice of a qualifying event.
The COBRA Model Election Notice was revised to inform Qualified Beneficiaries of coverage options available through government-run health care exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

For those clients that currently utilize Mid-American Benefits, Inc. COBRA service, please be assured that we have updated our system with the updated COBRA Model Election Notice. This change has already been implemented.

The DOL only requires the Exchange notice to be sent to current employees, not to currently enrolled Qualified Beneficiaries; therefore, our COBRA service will be following the DOL guidelines. If you would like the currently enrolled Qualified Beneficiaries to receive the updated notice please understand that will need to be handled outside of our COBRA Administration duties.
For more details you may also refer to the technical release from the DOL at: http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/newsroom/tr13-02.html
Please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions.

The Mid-American Benefits, Inc. Team