Health Law Changes Ahead for 2014


2013 was a watershed year for health care, with the implementation of federal and state-run health insurance exchanges, as well as the advent of federal subsidies designed to help consumers afford coverage. However, 2014 promises to be a year of change in healthcare as well, with a quartet of important new changes to be aware of that take effect this year.


Small Business Tax Credit


The Small Business Tax Credit applies to employers with less than 25 full-time equivalent workers who earn an average of $50,000 per year or less.  These employers could qualify for a tax credit worth up to 50 percent of their employer contribution toward their employees’ premium costs.  This credit is only available to employers who pay at least half of full-time employees premium costs, and obtain coverage through the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP.


Expansion of Medicaid


Medicaid is the state-federal health insurance program that protects the poor and the disabled. In 2014, 25 states and the District of Columbia are implementing a significant expansion of Medicaid, which will allow an estimated nine million more Americans to gain health insurance through the program.  Under new guidelines, non-elderly adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level will qualify for Medicaid coverage.


Insurance Market Protections for Consumers


In 2014, new rules guarantee consumers have access to individual and small-group coverage regardless of past or current health conditions.  Health plans are also required to cover at least 60 percent of medical costs, limit the amount that older policy-holders can be charged, and do away with annual and lifetime benefit-spending limits. All individual and small-group plans must cover “essential health benefits” according to the Affordable Care Act, which include substance abuse services, pediatric dental and vision care, mental health treatment, preventative and wellness care and maternity and newborn care.


Individual Mandate


The individual mandate requires individuals and their dependents to carry health insurance in 2014 or pay a penalty for noncompliance in 2015. People who enroll for coverage by March 31, 2014, will avoid penalties. The 2014 penalty is 1 percent of annual income, or $95 per person, whichever is greater. The penalties will increase each year until they reach 2.5 percent of income, or $695 per person.


As these changes take effect, communication is key to promoting understanding and compliance with new rules and regulations. Clear, accurate translation of website materials, documentation and outreach materials plays an increasingly important role in accurately communicating new information.  Communicating to Limited English Proficient (LEP) consumers in their primary languages increases understanding, awareness and compliance, which enables the government to more effectively do its job, and consumers to benefit more readily and directly.