- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire businesses both large and small need to pay attention to the federal health care law now even though key features affecting them don’t kick in until later this year and beyond, a pair of experts told employers Friday.

Attorneys Maria Proulx of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire and Steve Gerlach of Bernstein Shur spoke at a conference organized by the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.

Proulx explained that while the online marketplace for small businesses to find coverage for their employees has been delayed until November, companies still can get insurance from the exchange by working with directly with Anthem, the only company offering either individual or small group plans under the new marketplaces in New Hampshire. Some small businesses with fewer than 25 full-time workers can get tax credits to help pay for employee premiums, she said.

Come 2015, businesses employing more than the equivalent of 50 full-time employees must provide health coverage or risk a penalty. But the complicated calculations involved in counting employees will be based on this year’s numbers, so companies need to take action now, Gerlach said, and make careful decisions about who they hire and when, and how many hours employees work.

Anyone who works an average of 30 hours per week or more counts as one full-time employee, he said. Those who work fewer hours count as a fraction of a full-time employee, depending on their hours. Seasonal workers are not counted toward the total, but the determining factor is the type of work they perform, not the duration.

“If you have a college kid who comes home and works as a bank teller in the summer, that’s not seasonal work,” he said.

When an audience member suggested he was trying to frighten businesses, he said he would take it as a compliment if listeners left the session “a little bit scared.”

“It’s not that I want you to walk away and say, ‘Oh my God, what are we going to do?’ I want you to walk away and start doing,’” he said. “I want employers to get on top of this. I want you to get out there and know whether you have 50 (employees), and if you do have 50, you know what to do.”

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