The hidden HR hurdles of health care reform — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

It’s no wonder that some provisions of the recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act flew under the media radar that focused on the politics of health care reform. After all, the law is more than 2,000 pages long. But HR pros need to know about new requirements concerning reporting of employer-provided health benefits, breastfeeding at work and background checks for health care workers.

Health insurance benefits and W-2s

Beginning in the 2011 tax year, employers will be required to report the “aggregate cost” of “applicable employer-sponsored coverage” on an employee's W-2. That includes the value of any medical, dental and vision coverage you may pay for.

This will become much more relevant in 2018, when people with so-called high-cost “Cadillac” plans will have to start paying a hefty tax on it.

Note: It’s generally a good idea to tell employees how much you contribute to the cost of employee benefits like health insurance. It helps them understand the total value of benefits as an overall part of their compensation. Now Uncle Sam is requiring it.

Breastfeeding at work

Effective immediately, employers with 50 or more employees must provide breastfeeding workers with “reasonable break time” and a private, non-bathroom place to express breast milk during the workday, up until the child’s first birthday. Employers are not required to pay for time spent expressing milk.

Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from this rule if complying would cause “undue hardship.”

Women’s groups have long sought break time for breastfeeding and pumping, and many states already have similar laws on the book. Employers in states that already have such laws must comply with either the state or federal law, whichever is most generous to employees.

Background checks for health care workers

Starting this year, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services must develop a national system for conducting criminal background checks of prospective health care workers who would deal directly with patients in long-term care facilities or private homes. This is one of a suite of changes aimed at protecting seniors in nursing homes.

The Department of Health and Human Services will work with state agencies to implement the background check program, a process that could take up to a year.

Advice: If you’re in the health care industry, be alert for news that the background check system is coming online in your state.

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