Benefits & Compensation News

DOL backs off, delays key Obamacare deadline

Overworked benefits pros now have one less Obamacare deadline to worry about scrambling to meet, thanks to a recent announcement by the Department of Labor (DOL).

The deadline you’ve been granted a reprieve from is the distribution of notices to health care plan participants on the availability of coverage through state exchanges.

As we’ve mentioned previously, under the Affordable Care Act all employer plans (even grandfathered plans) were required to hand out exchange notices to employees enrolled in their plans by March 1, 2013.

But the DOL just pushed that date back, and it included the announcement in the eleventh installment of the its Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) guidance.

A number of reasons

If you’re wondering exactly what caused the DOL to push back this deadline, it’s no one thing in particular. The agency said there are a number of factors at work.

For example, the DOL decided it was “impracticable” for firms to hand out the notices because many of the state exchanges haven’t even been set up yet. Plus, the exchanges themselves don’t become operational until Jan. 1, 2014.

On top of that, the original Obamacare exchange notice provision said the mandate wouldn’t take effect until the DOL — and the other agencies it works in conjunction with (HHS, IRS) — issues an official rule on how to comply. Because that hasn’t happened yet, there’s no way for employers to know exactly what they need to do to satisfy the requirement.

If that isn’t enough, the feds’ FAQ also listed the following reasons for the delay:

  • Educational efforts from the HHS, and IRS guidance on “minimum value” under the reform law need to be released first, and
  • Employers will need adequate time to comply.

When to expect a new deadline

In terms of a new deadline on the exchange notices, the DOL says it’ll move that up to late summer or early fall, which it says will be in time for the exchanges’ first open enrollment period.

The agency is also thinking about providing model, generic language employers can use to satisfy the exchange notice requirement.

We’ll keep you posted.

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