Healthcare reform: What it means to your veterinary practice

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Healthcare reform: What it means to your veterinary practice

New healthcare regulations mean buzzwords and big changes for veterinary practice owners. Here's a sneak peek at what's in store.
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Sep 01, 2010

What does human healthcare reform have to do with your veterinary practice? More than you may think. No, you won't get any extra government funds for the healthcare you provide pets. But the humans who handle patient care in your practice need care, too. And new rules just may change the healthcare plans you offer team members.

CLEAR AS MUD

I recently attended the Society of Human Resource Managers' annual conference in San Diego. I hoped to glean some information about the new healthcare reform act and what impact it would have on the veterinary profession, especially the practices I consult with. Unfortunately, I walked away realizing that I'm not the only one confused about these new laws and regulations. Even people who are supposed to know all about the subject admit they're confused.

For one thing, the law keeps changing. President Obama signed the legislation (officially titled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) into law on March 23. A reconciliation bill passed three days later. Less than a month later, a set of final interim regulations came into play that "grandfathered" existing healthcare plans.


Things to come
Despite the confusion, it's worth highlighting the changes that carry potential ramifications for veterinary practices both big and small. Keep in mind that while most of the healthcare reform act will affect practices that employ more than 50 employees, some provisions affect every practice, regardless of size. The main difference is that practices with 50 or fewer employees are exempt from the tax penalties the law will impose on employers that don't provide healthcare benefits.

FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS

Let's start with the positive. Small veterinary practices (those with fewer than 25 employees) already offering health insurance coverage, or practices that start to offer this benefit for the first time, may qualify for a special tax credit. To qualify, you must pay at least half the cost of healthcare coverage for your employees, and the employees must earn an average of $50,000 or less per year.

Because the eligibility formula is based in part on the number of full-time equivalents on the payroll, your practice might qualify even if you employ more than 25 team members. The tax credit is granted on a sliding scale based on the number of employees and the percentage of the health insurance premium paid by the employer. To see if your practice qualifies, visit http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-utl/3_simple_steps.pdf.

In the 2010 tax year, the maximum credit (available to qualifying employers with 10 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees who earn an average of $25,000 or less each year) is 35 percent of the premiums you pay. In 2014, the maximum credit will increase to 50 percent of premiums. The credit is set to expire in 2016.


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