If you are a human being in the United States, chances are you know about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, do you _really know_ about the ACA? Strange as it might sound, as a Realtor or other small business owner working in the industry, it is important that you do.[IMAGE]
There is a large amount of diversity when it comes to the employment situations of those working in the mortgage and real estate sectors. Some are self-employed, some work for small or large companies, and some people run those companies. The ACA affects all of these people in dramatically different ways. Let's look at just what this law means in all of those situations.
*Buying Insurance as an Individual*
According to the law's individual mandate, everybody has to have insurance. Otherwise, you will have to pay a penalty. ""Healthcare.gov"":https://www.healthcare.gov/ and its state exchange counterparts have been created to facilitate the law's all-inclusive healthcare coverage mandate.
In addition to the tax credits you can get from plans bought on these exchanges (something we will talk about later), the big thing to know is the organizational system for plans. It is simple. Plans are divided into four tiers: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. In that order, plans have low to high premiums and cover the smallest to the largest amount of out-of-pocket costs.
*The Employer Mandate or Ã¢â‚¬ËœWait, What?'*
Employers with 50 or more full-time employees are probably not too happy to hear that they will have to provide all of their full-time employees with health insurance starting in 2015. As you might have guessed, the alternative is a penalty, to the tune of $3,000 per full-time employee after the first 30 staff members.
Regardless of how many employees you have, chances are you will have to tell your employees what their healthcare options are. Healthcare.gov includes a ""resource page"":https://www.healthcare.gov/what-do-i-need-to-tell-my-employees-about-the-marketplace/ that tells you if you do in fact have to do that, and it also provides sample notices you can use for this purpose.
""SHOP"":https://www.healthcare.gov/marketplace/shop/ on Healthcare.gov does the same thing for small business owners buying insurance that the site's ""Marketplace"":https://www.healthcare.gov/families/ does for individuals. Basically, it allows you to look at all your options together so you can evaluate them with relative ease. More importantly, some plans have tax credits attached to them.
To get a SHOP plan, your business must have less than 50 full-time employees. Businesses with 50-100 full-time[COLUMN_BREAK]
employees will have to wait until 2016 to purchase plans on SHOP.
*The Scoop on Tax Credits*
Let's talk about what you probably want to know about the most: tax credits, which are two very different matters for individuals and businesses.
For individuals and families, it is simple. If your income is between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty line, you can get a tax credit on plans purchased at Healthcare.gov. A concrete number can't be given offhand, but the Kaiser Family Foundation's ""subsidy calculator"":http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/ will at least give you some idea of how much these tax credit subsidies may be.
Small businesses need to fulfill three conditions to qualify for a tax credit. The business has to have fewer than 25 full-time employees, the employees' income has to be around $50,000 or less, and the employer has to be covering at least 50 percent of the employees' premiums. For a bit more in-depth explanation of this subject, check out ""Healthcare.gov's guide"":https://www.healthcare.gov/will-i-qualify-for-small-business-health-care-tax-credits/.
*You Can Keep Your Plan...Maybe*
To keep your plan, it has to be compliant with the ACA's laws for grandfathered health insurance coverage. The plan in question first must have been in existence before March 23, 2010. Simple enough.
However, your plan also has to ""meet some"":https://www.healthcare.gov/what-if-i-have-a-grandfathered-health-plan/, but not all, of the ACA's regulations. That isn't too bad.
Lastly, the plan must not have made any ""big adjustments"":http://kff.org/health-reform/perspective/grandfathering-explained/ to its coverage since March 23, 2010. If you are one of the unlucky people who has received a cancellation letter, it could be because of one of these reasons.
However there's now a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel for those who've already received a cancellation notice from their insurer. The president this week announced that insurance companies can continue offering plans through the end of 2014 that otherwise would have been cancelled.
But hold your applause--it's now up to the insurance companies to decide whether or not they will ultimately continue offering those plans. Your best bet if you're one of those whose plan was cancelled, is to contact your insurer directly.
*How Are You Feeling?*
Depending on your own situation, some of that might've been great to hear, while some of it not so great. If it makes you feel any better, it is entirely possible for parts of this law to get overhauled. After all, it is a huge piece of legislature that makes a lot of changes to our national healthcare system.
For now, continue to educate yourself on the requirements and options available, and stay on top of the news as the ACA, right now, is making headlines on almost a daily basis.
_Michael Cahill is the editor of the_ ""Vista Health Solutions Blog."":http://forhealthinsurance.com/ _He writes about the health care system, health insurance industry, and the Affordable Care Act. Follow him on Twitter at @VistaHealthMike._