If you think you don’t need to worry about last year’s sweeping health care reform because it’s still tied up in the courts, your business may be headed for trouble. Your plans for compliance already should have begun. While the law stretches thousands of pages, here are the highlights that are most likely to affect your company.

As an employer, by now you should have:

  • Made space and time for nursing mothers. Companies with 50 or more employees must provide private space as well as break time for women who are nursing. You don’t need to pay for the break time unless your company already pays for breaks.
  • Accepted young adults up to age 26 to be covered under their parents’ insurance. Offering insurance to the dependents (up to age 26) of employees doesn’t mean your company must pay for it. It only must offer parents the ability to have their children covered under their insurance plan.
  • Recognized that your health insurance plan won’t necessarily be “grandfathered.” The health care law “grandfathers” company health insurance plans that go unchanged through Dec. 31, 2013. However, experts estimate that more than 80 percent of businesses have or will make changes to their plans after the March 23, 2010, grandfather deadline.

This year, employers should:

  • Prep W-2s. Spell out how much your organization spends on health care benefits for each employee on the annual W-2. While optional for 2011, it will be mandatory for 2012. So, why not get started this year? It’s important that your employees recognize how much the company spends on their benefits and providing this information can also be helpful when you revise your plan or offer multiple options.
  • Know the HSA, HRA, and FSA changes. Health Spending Accounts, Health Reimbursement Accounts, and Flexible Spending Accounts can no longer be used to cover over-the-counter medicines unless prescribed by a physician. HSA money spent on any non-qualified medical expenses will be assessed a 20 percent penalty (it was previously 10 percent.)
  • Consider a wellness program. The legislation designated $200 million for workplace wellness grants for companies with fewer than 100 employees who work at least 25 hours a week and that did not have a wellness program prior to March 23, 2010. General guidelines require employers to promote health awareness through education, preventive screenings, and risk assessments; implement efforts to maximize employee involvement; create initiatives to change unhealthy behaviors and promote better lifestyle choices; and establish a supportive healthy workplace environment. The grant program starts with the federal government’s fiscal 2011, which begins Oct. 1. Applications will be available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is expected to release how-to-apply details later this year.

In 2013, employers should:

  • Recognize new limits on FSA accounts. Flexible Spending Account contributions are limited to $2,500 beginning in 2013 and indexed for inflation in future years. Currently, FSA contributions are not limited.

In 2014, employers should:

  • Know the penalties. Starting in 2014, employers with more than 50 full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees that do not offer health insurance must pay a $2,000 penalty per FTE.
  • Incorporate changes to their group health plans. Pre-existing condition exclusions and annual limits regarding coverage must be prohibited in all group health plans.

No doubt, this landmark legislation will continue to garner plenty of press as its impact will be felt for years to come.  As the courts and Congress continue to review health care reform, Kreischer Miller will keep you updated on how the changes could affect your business.