Last week, we took a peek into the future and saw that 2014 could hold some scary consequences for employers that offer health benefits deemed “unaffordable” under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

I wish I had better news for you today, but a second bite at Mercer’s analysis (based on data collected from nearly 3,000 employers through its 2009 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans) reveals that PPACA may have the biggest impact on employers that don’t provide coverage to any part-time employees or require them to work more than 30 hours per week for coverage eligibility.

Under the “shared responsibility” requirement, all employees working an average of 30 hours per week or more in a month must be eligible for affordable coverage — there’s that fuzzy math term “affordable” again — or the employer may be subject to a penalty.
Mercer concludes that only about half (51%) of all large employers currently offer coverage to part-time employees that work 30 or more hours per week. The rest either don’t cover any part-time employees, require them to work more than 30 hours a week to be eligible, or impose other eligibility requirements.

“This rule will require employers with a lot of part-time employees to make some hard choices,” says Tracy Watts, a partner in Mercer’s D.C. office. “If they don’t currently offer coverage to part-timers, can they afford to start, or to raise the minimum hours required for coverage eligibility? How do they respond if cost rises as a result of other reform rules? Certainly, employers can choose to limit a part-time employee’s working hours to avoid incurring penalties, but that may bring other consequences.”
I don’t know about you, pros, but we’ve got a ways to go until 2014 and I already have a headache from all this. I need an Excedrin … which I’ll get reimbursed by my HSA before I’m not allowed to anymore.

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