Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Health Insurance Reporting Forms Giving Firms Fits Affordable Care Act's Process'a Nightmare'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Health Insurance Reporting Forms Giving Firms Fits Affordable Care Act's Process'a Nightmare'

Article excerpt

The following CORRECTION/CLARIFICATION appeared on March 5, 2016.The extension deadline for companies to file tax forms documenting health plan coverage offered to employees is March 31. An incorrect date was included in a story Friday about challenges some firms face meeting the IRS requirements. Also, companies with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees face penalties for not reporting or for filing late unless the employer shows it made a good faith effort to comply.

This year, for the first time, the government is requiring that self-insured businesses prove that each of their employees had essential health plan coverage last year - every month of the year.

"It has truly been a nightmare," said Shari Herrle, vice president and director of compliance at Henderson Brothers insurance brokers, Downtown, which has assisted more than 100 clients navigate the requirements, offering workshops and connecting employers with vendors to help them comply.

The process has been enough of a headache that the Internal Revenue Service decided toward the end of last year to extend the deadline, pushing it back from Feb. 1 to March 31.

Kathleen Green, human resources director for the General Carbide tungsten carbide tooling firm in Greensburg, Westmoreland County, wasn't impressed by the extension. By then, Ms. Green said she was "well on my way" to finishing the task herself.

To illustrate what a pain this has been, General Carbide has 225 employees. But, said Ms. Green, 275 people worked there at one point during 2015. Therefore, she had to track work hours and benefits for each of them for each month.

In one case, a 25-year-old employee turned 26 last year so that individual was no longer covered by a parent's health insurance. For a period, the employee wasn't sure whether to take the company's coverage, then decided to do so. But before year's end, the worker married and switched to the new spouse's insurance.

With each change, Ms. Green had to enter a new code that month for the employee.

The requirements were mandated under the federal Affordable Care Act, which required businesses with 50 or more employees that self-insure this year to distribute a Form 1095 to employees documenting that their health plan offerings include essential health benefit coverage for services such as hospitalizations, prescription drugs, laboratory work, and maternity and newborn care.

Employees do not have to include the form in their tax return.

But, to get the information together, employers must verify the status of each worker for each month, whether they're full - or part-time, and whether they enrolled in the plan. …

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