What is a Health Insurance Exchange Notice and Why is it Important?

With the health insurance exchanges, also known as health insurance marketplaces, set to open for business on October 1, 2013, the world of health insurance is about to change dramatically.  Through these exchanges individuals will be able to purchase medical insurance by comparing plans, insurance companies, and premiums side by side on their computer screen.

One of the advantages of buying insurance through the marketplace is the possibility of obtaining a tax credit subsidy to help pay for the cost of the coverage.  However, not everyone is eligible for the subsidy.  One of the ways to not be eligible is to be offered affordable coverage with a certain level of benefits through your employer.  But how do you know if your group coverage makes you ineligible for the tax credits?  Your employer will provide you with a health insurance exchange notice.

What is the Health Insurance Exchange Notice?

The health insurance exchange notice will explain to you whether or not your coverage eliminates you from the subsidy.  Employers are required to provide this notice to existing employees by October 1, 2013 and to new employees within 14 days of employment.

There has been some confusion about possible penalties given to employers who do not comply with the requirement to provide a health insurance exchange notice.  Some reports suggested that there would be a $100 per day per employee penalty.  The Department of Labor came out later and confirmed that there would not be a penalty for lack of compliance.  Still, employees are encouraged to send the notice.

If your employer does not provide a notice, it is still important to find out if you are offered coverage that will keep you from being able to access the tax subsidy.

Why is the Health Insurance Exchange Notice Important?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires every American to purchase health insurance or else face a tax.  Since health insurance is an expensive addition to the budgets of many people, the law allows for subsidies to help pay for the premiums.  However, if medical coverage is available through an employer, the subsidy is not available.

When an individual applies for coverage through the exchanges, the site will ask if group coverage is offered.  To be accurate in answering this question, people can rely on the health insurance exchange notice provided by their employer.

Are Model Notices Available?

Model notices are available through the Department of Labor’s website.

Model notice for employers that offer a plan

Model notice for employers that do not offer a plan

Group Coverage can be an Inexpensive Option

Even if you are not eligible for a subsidy because of employer sponsored coverage, the group coverage is still a great option.  The Affordable Care Act mandates that employers cannot charge employees more than 9.5% of their salary for coverage.  In many cases, this premium will be less expensive than coverage purchased through an exchange, even with a subsidy in place.  Therefore, not being able to get the tax credits because of available group coverage is not necessarily a bad thing.

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