By now you’ve heard a lot about the Affordable Care Act (or ACA), the legislation that greatly changes employers’ requirements when it comes to offering healthcare coverage to workers. You may have even experienced the effects of the law first-hand, either as an employee or a business owner.
But here’s something you may not expect: The ACA will have significant impact on you as a board member of your community association, too. While it’s always good for a board to do its own research, seeking professional guidance from the association’s counsel regarding the impact the ACA will have on the association and its vendors/service providers is recommended.
The law is here, and there’s no changing that. What you can change is how ready you are for how it will influence how you do business. Here are some things to keep in mind to help you through it.  

1. Do some homework.

While reading legislation is nobody’s idea of a good time, there are some handy websites you can visit that will help you understand the basics of the ACA. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services breaks it all down pretty simply at Head there so you can get the facts.

2. Your contractors’ costs will rise.

Since the law requires all companies with 50 or more employees to offer health benefits to their workers, many of your service providers will now be incurring costs they didn’t have before. They may need to pass some of that extra burden on to you in the form of increased fees. We’re seeing this particularly with companies that offer valet services or security, but any company with 50+ employees must meet this requirement. So if you see an increase in your bills, don’t be surprised.

3. You’ll need to start planning for higher fees now.

You can’t do much about higher costs beyond selecting new contractors and vendors. But if you like the ones you have, press them for information about anticipated rate hikes right now. The sooner you know what to expect, the sooner you can prepare for it. Being proactive is your best defense against the kind of surprise fee increases that can result in a budget shortfall. A good property management company can help you with this (the best ones have probably already put this practice into place for forecasting 2015 and 2016 budgets, in fact). 

4. If you’re self-managed, you’ll feel the effects.

For self-managed buildings with fifty or more employees, the full effects of the law have already been felt. But what if you’re smaller? Well, you’re still not immune. Since the law requires everyone to have health insurance, you may find that you’re losing employees to larger companies because workers don’t want to self-pay. With unemployment rates decreasing, which means the employment market is about to get a lot more competitive. You may want to look at ways to retain your workers so you don’t have the headache of increased turnover.

5. Check with your contractors and vendors about compliance.

It is in the Association’s best interest to confirm all service providers are ACA complaint. Your Association’s legal counsel can help with this. Do your due diligence and make sure their i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.

6. Employee education is crucial.

If your association is required to offer benefits under the ACA, make sure your employees understand that they must be covered, period. They don’t have to take the plan you’re offering, but if they don’t, they are required by law to find one someplace else. Failing to have coverage means penalties for individuals so be sure your employees understand that. The last thing you want is for an employee to come to you next tax season to request a bonus to cover a tax penalty they didn’t know was coming.

7. Great benefits are a good policy.

So you can see there are twin challenges the ACA presents: making sure everyone’s covered (on their own or through the association, if applicable) and retaining quality employees. The one way to meet both of those obstacles is to offer a comprehensive benefits package, including health, 401(k) and other benefits. This helps you meet – and exceed – the requirements of the law, while retaining top-tier talent for your organization.

Getting ahead of the ACA with a few proactive steps is your best strategy when it comes to navigating the new healthcare landscape. For more information and insight, contact FirstService Residential.

This article provides ideas and recommendations for your consideration. No legal advice is being given in this article and it is not intended to be relied upon as a source of legal expertise. All of your association’s legal matters should be handled in conjunction with association counsel.

Friday April 10, 2015