Following its postponement of a required notice under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) from March 1, 2013 to the "fall," the Department of Labor (DOL) has now issued guidance and model notices earlier than expected. Under ACA, employers are required to provide employees with a notice of health care coverage options available through the Federal and state Exchanges, the "marketplace" for health coverage options effective January 1, 2014. The DOL has now issued temporary guidance (Technical Release 2013-02, at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/newsroom/tr13-02.html) and two model notices, one for an employer that does not offer a health plan and one for an employer that offers some or all employees a health plan (http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/healthreform/index.html).

The appropriate notice must be provided to employees hired on or after October 1, 2013 and within 14 days of the date of employment. Current employees must also receive a notice by October 1, 2013.

The model notice to be used by an employer offering health care coverage to some or all of its employees requires specific information on the employer and a statement as to whether the health coverage offered meets minimum value rules and is intended to be "affordable," thus resulting in an employee being ineligible for premium discounts or tax credits on the Exchange. Employers may wish to modify or enhance the information outlined in the model. In its current form, it is not a detailed explanation of the effect of the choices available to employees.

In addition, the DOL has issued a new model COBRA notice (http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/cobra.html) to help employees who may want to consider health care from an Exchange rather than COBRA coverage.

Employers should review the model notices and consider when to provide these notices and whether other health care information may be provided as additional background to aid employees in making the decisions that will be required by the end of this year. It is generally acknowledged that most employees do not understand ACA and how it will affect them.