[IMGCAP(1)]Open enrollment is the annual time period where employees enroll in a health insurance policy that they feel best fits their needs for the following year.

In today’s economy, accountants who understand how these regulations impact their clients’ businesses—and can offer strategic guidance—are in great demand. Business owners continue to rely on CPAs to provide valuable information regarding Employer Shared Responsibility requirements, which come into play during open enrollment.

Under the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions, certain employers must offer affordable health insurance coverage that meets the established minimum essential coverage and minimum value requirements to their full-time employees and their dependents or risk a potential penalty. Many companies have already selected their health plans for qualified employees. However, there are a considerable number of companies who are not subject to the employer shared responsibility provision, yet are still impacted by open enrollment.

As accountants, this offers a unique opportunity to work with business clients and help them navigate carefully through the open enrollment period. These business clients will fall into two categories: employers who do not offer a group health plan because they are not subject to Employer Shared Responsibility provisions, and those who offer a group health plan, but have part-time employees or employees who do not qualify.

Although health insurance isn’t readily available to these employees through their place of employment, they are still required to obtain individual health insurance that meets minimum essential coverage requirements, qualify for an exemption or pay a fee for each month that goes by without coverage. In these instances, your business clients are not required to take action, but many will take the time to help their employees gain access to coverage anyway. Accountants can build upon the client relationship by sharing valuable information and making recommendations, such as the utilization of a private insurance exchange or marketplace. Doing so may unfold a number of benefits to these clients.

Initially, business owners may spend a considerable amount of time researching health insurance options for their employees. This takes valuable time and attention away from the business operations and growth of their company, which is a risk for many small business owners. With a private insurance marketplace, the heavy lifting of searching and compiling information is removed. Instead, individuals who are not eligible for group plans can compare benefits from a variety of national and regional insurance carriers via one centralized location. As a result, business owners can concentrate on growing their business and help their employees at the same time—a huge advantage for smaller companies.

Private marketplaces also offer employees the flexibility to choose a preferred carrier and health plan that suits their needs. Employees can receive personal recommendations and side-by-side comparison of the plan options, including those that qualify for premium tax credits, and total annual costs associated with each plan. For employees that are not well-versed in the area of health care insurance, marketplaces can be a convenient, comprehensible alternative that offer great results.
Open enrollment is an important time for you to connect with your business clients and discuss how health insurance coverage will impact their business, as well as their employees, in the following year.
By helping determine whether or not your clients have selected an adequate and affordable group plan and understanding who is eligible for health insurance through their company, you can play a key role in helping their employees who don’t qualify find the coverage they need. Not only will it help your clients run their business, but it will build upon the integrity of the company and strengthen your client relationship in the process.

Eric Enser is the product manager for insurance solutions at Paychex, Inc., a leading provider of integrated human capital management solutions for payroll, HR, retirement, and insurance services.

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