What Are My Nonprofit's Obligations Under the Affordable Healthcare Act?

Dear Rita: I am the executive director of a nonprofit with 15 employees. We have never been able to afford to provide health insurance benefits for our staff. I'm confused about our obligations under the Affordable Healthcare Act. I heard that employers have to pay a "penalty" if they do not provide healthcare to their employees, but frankly I don't think we can afford it. Signed, Sick with Worry

Dear Sick with Worry: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare, or the "Act") has several provisions designed to help small businesses afford healthcare coverage for their employees. The Act does not mandate or require all companies to provide insurance, but certain companies with 50 or more employees will face penalties if they do not provide insurance.

The Act creates sweeping changes in health care law, too many to cover in one article. There are two key provisions which may help your organization:

1. Small Employer Health Credit. If you choose to start offering health insurance, your organization may be eligible for a payroll tax credit. Nonprofits with fewer than 25 employees that provide health insurance and pay average annual wages of less than $50,000 may be eligible for a tax credit of up to 25% for qualified health costs from 2013 through 2014. In 2014, that tax credit goes up to 35% (for-profit businesses are eligible for tax credits at a higher rate). The amount of the credit is phased depending on the size of the employer and the average annual wage. For example, the full credit is available to employers with 10 or fewer employees who earn, on average, less than $25,000 per year. As the size of the employer and the average annual wage increase, the credit phases out.

The employer must contribute at least 50% of the healthcare premium cost to be eligible for the credit. Through 2013, the credit is available to any employer who meets the criteria outlined above. For tax years 2014 and later, the credit is available only to employers who purchase coverage through a state exchange (see below).

2. Health Insurance Exchanges. One of the problems faced by many small nonprofits is that they are told they are too small to purchase health benefit plans for their employees at a competitive cost. American Health Benefit Exchanges are designed to pool individuals and employers together to leverage the purchasing power of a larger group. If you employ fewer than 100 employees, you can join an exchange when they are set up at the beginning of 2014. Exchanges are designed to be set up at the state level. Some states will establish their own state-based exchange. Individuals and employers in states that opt out of creating an exchange will be able to join a federal exchange. There is also a hybrid State-Federal Partnership exchange model. The chart below shows which states have opted for which option, as of March 21, 2013 (North Dakota is undecided):

From 2014 through 2016, only small employers (defined as employers with 100 or fewer employees) will be able to purchase healthcare benefit plans through exchanges. It is a state's option to lower the eligibility for participation in the exchanges to 50 or fewer employees. In 2017, states can permit the exchanges to open up to larger employers.

The tax credit and the exchanges were created to encourage smaller employers to provide health benefit plans to their employees.

The Act also provides for penalties to larger employers who do not provide health benefit plans to their employees. In general, employers with an average of 50 or more full-time employees will be subject to a monthly penalty if they fail to offer the "minimum essential coverage" to full-time employees. Full-time employees are defined as those who work 30 or more hours per week in any month. The Act also provides for aggregation of the hours worked by part-time employees. Organizations with close to 50 employees, or with over 50 employees and many part-time employees, should make sure they understand whether they qualify. The Kaiser Foundation has a good illustration of the penalties here.

By no means is this a comprehensive analysis of the many affects the Act will have on employers of all sizes. I encourage you to go to www.healthcare.gov for more information. I also suggest contacting a healthcare benefits broker that specializes in working with nonprofits.

In short, since you have 15 employees (or fewer than 50):

  • You may be offer to afford health coverage for your employees with the new Small Employer Health Credit, if the average salary at your organization is below $50,000. Talk to your auditor or your state health department.
  • If you are in a state that offers an exchange, you may be able to afford to pay for health insurance for employees through the exchange.
  • There is no penalty for employers of your size for not providing health insurance.

And, "Sick with Worry," try not to worry so much. You don't have to understand everything about the Affordable Care Act to be able to make the right decisions for your organization. Talk to your insurance broker about your options, and be sure to work with a broker that is familiar with nonprofits of your size.

Siobhan Kelley is a labor and risk management attorney for the Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group (NIA Group), which includes the Nonprofits' Insurance Alliance of California (NIAC) and the Alliance for Nonprofit Insurance (ANI). If either is your insurance carrier, you can obtain advice from Siobhan and the other Ask Rita attorneys at no charge.

Comments (19)

  • Anonymous

    Maryland was one of the first to opt for a state exchange, but I don' see them on the list

    Apr 16, 2013
  • Anonymous

    Florida's not on the list at all.

    Apr 16, 2013
  • Anonymous

    Where is Michigan?

    Apr 16, 2013
  • Anonymous

    Hey, you left off Michigan?

    Apr 17, 2013
  • Anonymous

    Confused about "tax credit" for nonprofits. Nonprofits do not pay taxes. How will small nonprofits benefit should they offer insurance?

    Apr 18, 2013
  • Anonymous

    This also jumped out to me: a tax credit is worthless for a nonprofit which pays no taxes.

    Apr 20, 2013
  • Anonymous

    It's a payroll tax credit. We all pay payroll taxes!

    Apr 29, 2013
  • Anonymous

    Florida is on the "No State Exchange" list, and Michigan is on the "State-Federal Exchange" list. I don't see Maryland, either! While many nonprofits are exempt from paying many types of taxes (sales tax, income tax), they are not exempt from paying "employment" or "payroll" taxes.

    Apr 18, 2013
  • Anonymous

    So is it your belief that if a nonprofit pays only payroll taxes (as most 501(c)3 do) that the credit can be taken as a credit to payroll taxes?

    Apr 21, 2013
  • Anonymous

    It says right in the article that it's a payroll tax credit.

    Apr 29, 2013
  • Anonymous

    I am a little sickened that you do not make health insurance a priority for your employees. Get ont he ball and give them a benefit that they need not just deserve.

    Apr 19, 2013
  • Anonymous

    As the ED of a small non-profit (13 employees most part-time) in a rural community, there is nothing I would like more than to be able to provide health insurance for our committed staff. However, it is very difficult to ensure mission essential activites are funded. Serving nearly 100 young people a day in a out-of-school time program, our first commitment has to be to these young people. If we are not here everyday these children will have nowhere to go in their out of school hours. In the nonprofit sector, tough decisions have to be made everyday!! Please know it is not a matter of lack of conern or respect for our staff it is just one of many choices we have to make.

    Apr 19, 2013
  • Anonymous

    Dear ED of a small non-profit, You gave that explanation very well. I was in that position not so long ago. I don't know why people can't understand what the words Non-Profit means. For me it meant relying on donations and bequests for most of our funding. It took everything we brought in to, as you said, ensure our mission essential activities were funded. We looked into providing health benefits for our staff, but because most were women of child bearing age and there were a few smokers, the premiums were more than was affordable for employer or employee. Also, all employees knew when they were hired that there were no health benefits and we held no one hostage after hiring so they were free to find another job which offered benefits. Most of them stayed because they loved the kind of work we did---with animals.

    Apr 23, 2013
  • Anonymous

    You're an idiot and a jerk! No one should force anything thing on anyone for any reason! Healthcare should be an individual's choice. The USA govern. Is for the people,by the people and of the people. We are NOT the republic of Obama!

    Oct 14, 2013
  • Anonymous

    Well, they need food, clothing and shelter more than health insurance. Should I give them that, too? There are socialist countries all over the globe. If that's what you want, you should go there, check it out and tell me how it works for you!

    Oct 21, 2013
  • Anonymous

    What a great article! I had no idea about this payroll tax credit--I thought it was just for income tax. We will fill out the forms for 2012. One question--it seems from this article and the IRS website that this credit has been in effect since 2010. Does that mean we can retroactively get refunds for 2010 and 2011 as well?

    Apr 20, 2013
  • This is a very insightful article and I hope you don't mind sharing it on my facebook page. Anyway, it's great to have a deeper understanding about healthcare act for NonProfit/Organizations. I've never read the law about the healthcare act so I think i should start reading it now. Regards, Pauline Sandberg http://www.nationalsocialservices.org/

    Apr 22, 2013
  • We're always happy when our readers share! Please note for your FB friends that people can subscribe for free to Blue Avocado at www.blueavocado.org

    Apr 22, 2013

Leave a comment

Fill this field in if you want to post a name a user login

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <small> <sup> <sub> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <img> <br> <br/> <p> <div> <span> <b> <i> <pre> <img> <u><strike>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

subscribe (free)

 

Donate to American Nonprofits, sponsor of Blue Avocado