Obamacare forum raises questions about Oct. 1 small business deadline

By Glynis Kazanjian


Maryland Health Connection illustrationWill Farmer, an Air Force veteran with a cyber security business based in Hanover, took diligent notes and asked direct questions while attending a health care forum for small businesses last month  in Laurel. The forum was designed to help small business owners better understand new laws soon to set in under Obamacare.

While small businesses are not required under the new health care law to offer health insurance to their employees, they are required to notify all employees about the new health insurance marketplace available in their state by Oct. 1.

A majority of Farmer’s employees live in Virginia and Washington, D.C., and he needed to know if he was also supposed to include information about the health insurance marketplaces where his employees reside.

“I never got that question answered,” Farmer said.

ACA requires small businesses to notify employees about new health care options by Oct. 1

According to the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), all small businesses subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act — regardless of whether they offer health insurance to their employees or not — are required to notify their employees about the new health insurance marketplace by Oct. 1. New hires on or after Oct. 1 must be notified at the time of hire.

In Maryland, the marketplace is called the Maryland Health Connection, and it is administered by the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.

Historic shift

“Many businesses do not have the October 1 deadline for notification requirements on their radar,” said forum host Walter Townshend, president of the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber. “This is the beginning of a historic shift in the way health care insurance is being processed—and it will be, to some extent—like reversing the course of an aircraft carrier.”

“Many businesses do not have the October 1 deadline for notification requirements on their radar,” said forum host Walter Townshend, president of the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber. “This is the beginning of a historic shift in the way health care insurance is being processed—and it will be, to some extent—like reversing the course of an aircraft carrier.”

Under the ACA, a small business is defined as a business with one to 50 “full-time equivalent” employees. Owners are not counted as employees, and full-time employees qualify as those working a minimum of 30 hours per week.

A notification form – called a “model notice” that small businesses can use is available on the Maryland Health Connection website and at www.healthcare.gov. A reported $100-per-day fine for businesses that miss the notification deadline will not be imposed, according to a spokesman from the U.S. Department of Labor, one of the main federal agencies overseeing the implementation of Obamacare.

“This is a period of time that will go down in history,” said Mary Hesse, a panelist at the forum. “We have a mighty task ahead of us.” Hesse is president of Corporate Insurance Systems, a health insurance brokerage and consulting firm for businesses.

At the beginning of the forum, only four of the three dozen people attending raised their hands when an exchange official asked who could explain the functions of the exchange. But after forty-five minutes of straight questions, many had a better, basic understanding.

“The panelists gave a very high-level explanation of the new regulations, as well as a few scenario based perspectives for businesses that provide health care benefits to their employees,” Farmer said. “I felt pretty good about it overall.”

Other small business information provided at the forum

  • Small businesses can purchase employee health insurance plans on Maryland Health Connection’s Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP);
  • Small Businesses who purchase health insurance plans on the exchange may qualify for tax credits up to 50% of their health care costs;
  • Small businesses that purchase health insurance through SHOP can choose between two coverage models:  Employer choice and Employee choice;
  • Small business owners can purchase health insurance on the exchange by going through a health insurance broker (also called a “producer”) or through Maryland Health Connection staff  known as SHOP navigators or third-party administrators.
  • Employees who currently have health insurance with a small business may elect to purchase a new policy on the Maryland Health Connection, but they will not be eligible for individual subsidies if their employer has offered them a reasonable health insurance option;
  • Employees who become unemployed and find themselves without health insurance may be able to purchase health insurance on the exchange during a special enrollment period;
  • Open enrollment for small businesses begins Jan. 1, 2014 with coverage beginning March 1. Open enrollment in SHOP is ongoing.
  • Beginning in 2016, under the ACA a small business will be defined as one to 100 employees.

This story has been updated Oct. 6 to correct Will Farmer’s name and branch of service.


About The Author

Len Lazarick


Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. cwals99

    The commenter is right…..this will go down in history as a time when a nation that was formerly a first world democracy will go to third world quality of life and have a life span fall by ten years in just one generation all while being almost the only nation in the developed world to create a tiered health care system where most of US citizens will not be able to access health care all so that health institution will maximize profits. THAT IS HISTORICAL! IT IS ALSO OUTRAGEOUS!

    The need to notify employees at small business is only for the individual mandate that has people paying a health premium for insurance they then will not be able to use because co-pays and deductibles keep them from accessing most care not preventative. The Affordable Care Act is all about consolidating the health industry into global corporations that will be just like Wall STreet banks…just as profit-driven and predatory….no patient care in the making. The marketplace being created will be mostly Bronze and Silver levels of care and will be where public sector health plans, Medicare and Medicaid, and slowly include most private union and non-union plans as large corporations go to preventative care plans that will also prevent employees from accessing specialists.

    People will face medical bankruptcy after just one major health incident and then be pushed to Medicaid level care that is only a public health checkup. Dying in the early 60 years of age will be the new norm. Remember, right now it takes an income of $100,000 for a family of four to buy good health insurance for all members of the family and that will continue to grow as health systems go global. Meanwhile income is dropping to poverty for most people. It is predicted that 80% of Americans will not be able to access any care outside of preventative. Meanwhile, other developed nations have a universal level of care in most cases with the rich and poor getting similar access…..just as the US has had for decades.

    Why are they changing now? First, all of the Entitlement Trusts have been gutted by fraud and the money stolen has not been recovered……tens of trillions of dollars in corporate fraud. Second, what used to be public health is now a market and as such the goal of any market is maximum profit and therefor only those who can pay for their care will get it even if that is only 10-15% of US citizens. That is the difference between public health care and private health care. Now, the answer it to recover the massive fraud to the entitlement trusts, rebuild oversight to eliminate future fraud, and return corporate taxation to the high of 60% as was the case through 1940s – 1960s when we had a strong economy fueled by a strong middle-class. Corporations are doing just fine when they earn millions in profit and not the billions they are now!


  2. InGodWeTrust

    Hopefully Maryland Reporter will offer some balanced coverage to communicate the REAL picture that is already occurring with ObamacareLESS. How about covering the fact that 300 small businesses have had to reduce employee hours or lay people off. How about covering the fact that good ole BGE has dropped current health coverage for retirees, forcing them into the shamefully screwed up exchanges. How about covering the fact that AETNA has pulled OUT of Maryland ! Let’s see, what was that? If you like your insurance and your doctor, you can keep them? How about the people that are also finding out that their CAR insurance is DOUBLING in price, if they don’t have health insurance. How about the people who will be blind-sided by the fact that when they sell their HOUSE, they have to pay a special 3.8% tax on the profits. This was specifically ‘hidden’ very cleverly in the ObamacareLESS bill. And the coup de gras is that the Demorats made sure efforts were trampled, that would have ensured equal treatment for every American. Yeah, that’s the ‘equality’ party for you. Instead, our ruling elite congress people, along with their staffs, will get 75% of their healthcare premiums paid for by OUR tax dollars, while the struggling ‘working class’ has to pay not only 100% of their own health insurance, but 75% of Mikulski & Cardin’s health premiums!! Yes, the people who make between 100K and 175K a year, will be subsidized by our tax dollars paying for THEIR healthcare premiums. Mikulski and Cardin, along with the rest of their ilk, have indeed inflicted a multi-dimensional “CLUSTER F*~K ” upon Marylanders. Hope everyone who voted for the creeps is happy.

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