A growing number of employers are reviewing their options as the new health coverage regulations under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are set to be rolled out later this year and implemented on January 1, 2014.

Under the ACA, companies with 50 or more full-time workers beginning in 2014 will be required to offer a minimum level of health coverage or pay a penalty, starting at $2,000 per full-time employee after the first 30. If a company offers employee health insurance but the coverage is found to be minimal or unaffordable, the company will be required to pay a penalty of $3,000 for every worker who receives a federal subsidy to purchase health coverage on the individual market.

Many companies, including small businesses, restaurants, and retailers that tend to hire part-time workers will have to make their decisions by next fall, when benefits enrollment begins and the new health insurance exchanges are scheduled to begin accepting applicants.

Some of the options companies are considering include: Providing employees with a pre-determined amount of money and selection of health plans to obtain coverage, and requiring them to pay more out-of-pocket if they choose higher-priced coverage.
Company also may direct workers toward the health exchanges that will provide federal subsidies to qualifying workers. Although this would require companies to pay the penalties under the ACA some companies have said that the penalty will be less than the cost of providing the benefits.