Most Americans have heard about the Affordable Care Act commonly refereed to as Obamacare, but at about 1,000 pages few have read it, so what does it mean?
Three local companies are holding conferences at the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce in the months leading up to the deadline to better inform business owners and individuals about what they can expect.
Thursday night, Hanlon & Associates CPA, Dundee Health Solutions and Payroll Vault held the first in a series of Businesses Empowering Themselves in Arkansas or BETA conferences to help individuals and business owners prepare for the upcoming tax, payroll and insurance changes.
"By the time you leave, you will be a more informed taxpayer who knows a tax pro," said Laura Hanlon of Hanlon & Associates CPA.
With one in seven Americans uninsured, most families’ insurance premiums of almost $1,400 a year and an aging population, the government decided it was time for health care reform.
If a US citizen doesn’t have insurance from their employer, they can buy on the Exchange. The goal of buying insurance in a Marketplace is to keep prices competitive with transparent information and more options.
Beginning New Year’s Day 2014 individuals who make 138 percent of the federal poverty line will be covered under Medicaid. For a family of four this would be about $2,700 a month.
David Dundee, certified insurance agent of Dundee Health & Tax Solutions, tells business owners to get employees who qualify for Medicaid off their books.
"Assess if employees are above or below the poverty level, and if they are below 250 percent, don’t offer insurance," he said. "There’s not a perfect choice, but if you don’t offer it, you can go in and pay people differently."
At the beginning of the new year, insurers will no longer be able to turn people down or charge them more for preexisting conditions.
The government is mandating the level of essential health benefits for services such as outpatient care, prescription drug coverage and lab services.
In order to pay for all of this, ancillary tax laws are being implemented.
Employers are responsible for withholding an additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax. There will also be a 3.8 percent tax on net investment income.
"You’re going to start to see wealthy people begin to shift and juggle things," Hanlon said.
People who fall somewhere between 138 percent of the poverty line and less than 400 percent, qualify for tax credits.
Small businesses apply for a tax credit of up to 35 percent of premiums when they pay 50 percent or more of employee’s premium and have fewer than 25 full-time employes whose average annual wages are less than $50,000.
Also beginning Jan. 1, individuals must have minimum essential coverage for nine months out of the year, or face a penalty.
"Theory and reality are not always the same, but the intent is to cover all US citizens," Hanlon said.
Many people have a problem with being forced to buy insurance, but you have to buy car insurance, Dundee said, what’s the difference?
Individuals without insurance will pay $95 per uninsured adult and $47.50 per qualifying child up to a maximum of 1 percent of household income or $285, whichever is greater.
Eric Irons, CFO of Salter Construction attended the conference and said it was very informative.
"Individuals need to take action to find out what their responsibilities are because there could be some negative consequences when they fill their taxes out if they don’t," he said.
Businesses with 50 employees or more will also be penalized in the amount of $3,000 per year per full-time employee if an employee’s share of their premium is more than 9.5 percent of that employee’s wages .
Dundee said health insurance used to be a recruiting tool, but he’s not sure if it’s going to be anymore.
The complexity of the Affordable Care Act is skyrocketing as it ties health care, taxes and payroll all together, Hanlon said.
"I would be weary of somebody who in one brain says they understand all aspects of this," she said.
The three companies encouraged individuals and business owners to schedule consultations to look into their personal situation to find the best option.
"People need to know to pick up the phone and call someone they trust to see how it will impact them," Dundee said. "That’s the only hope for Americans stepping up to the plate and learning what they need to know."
For more information about the next conference call 501-339-7416, and visit www.centralarkansaspayroll.com/events.
(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1215. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)