The health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) will open on October 1, 2013.  Most small-business employers—those with 50 or fewer full-time employees—are not required to offer health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  Additionally, businesses with more than 50 full-time employees have gotten a reprieve from penalties if they don’t offer insurance for at least one-year. However, all companies, regardless of size, are required to notify their employees about the Obamacare health insurance marketplace.  The state and federal insurance exchanges are websites on which individuals and small businesses can shop for health plans.

Bottom line, at this time, as an employer, all you have to do is provide all of your employees with notice of the marketplace.  Although it’s not clear how the requirement will be enforced, as a recent Department of Labor notice suggests that employers will not be fined for failing to provide the notice (see a reference to the notice here).

The U.S. Department of Labor has posted information about the notification requirement on its website and has provided model notices that can be used both by employers who offer insurance (PDF) and by those who do not offer insurance (PDF).  Potentially, employers can draft a basic letter to employees and include the relevant notices provided by the Department of Labor.

The one- to three-page model notices can be downloaded, filled out, and printed, either for distribution in the office or for mailing to employees’ homes.  Employees who come on board after October 1, 2013, must get the notice within 14 days of their start date with the company. Although there is no requirement to prove that employees received notice, it may be a good idea to have the employees sign and acknowledgement form or send them the notice via certified mail.