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The financial impact of affordable health care

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Affordable Care Act requirements for employers may have been put off for another year, but companies will still have to be prepared for a flood of new health care plan enrollees in the coming months, according to one company benefits expert.

Starting Jan. 1, 2015, employers with 50 or more employees who work 30 hours per week or more will have to offer affordable healthcare according to President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

The deadline for employers to offer affordable health care was delayed by a year to allow companies extra time to comply with the new requirements, but the deadline for consumers to get health care coverage or otherwise face fines is still Jan. 1, 2014.

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"Employers initially breathed a sigh of relief and then said well wait a minute, I have a lot of people who have chosen not to participate today," said Tim Clifford, co-president of national account services at ADP. Since individuals will have to get insurance coverage by the end of this year, employers will still see increased enrollments before they're required to offer affordable health care, Clifford said.

An "affordable" premium, according to the health care legislation, will cost no more than 9.5 percent of a worker's annual household income.

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Currently, of single individuals who make more than $45,000 per year, about 82 percent participate in employers' health insurance plans when they're eligible, according to ADP's data. But participation rates are lower among those with lower incomes, the company said. Those making $15,000 to $20,000 a year only participate in company health plans 37 percent of the time. And when they do, they're spending on 8.4 percent of their incomes on health care, according to ADP.

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Health Benefits by Income

Currently, about 25 percent of employees eligible for insurance benefits don't opt in to health care plan participation, Clifford said, and when those employees do enroll, it's going to cost companies money.

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"For instance, Delta just announced that Obamacare is going to cost them about $100 million. About $14 million of that, they estimate is from people just joining who have opted out of the system previously," Clifford explained.

Insurers stand to benefit from the impending health care mandates, however.

"Insurance companies are happy that they're getting more volume into their system," Clifford said, but those companies face added risk since they'll no longer be able to exclude consumers with pre-existing medical conditions.

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