Small business owners spend a lot of time researching the laws and regulations that govern their business. This year, there’s a new one for them to study: The Affordable Care Act, which will require that all businesses of a certain size provide health care coverage for their full-time employees.

Furthermore, there will be penalties for small businesses who do not abide by the new rules set by the ACA, which will take effect on the first day of 2015. This means that health care plans need to be put into place well before the end of this year.

To help you navigate the healthcare landscape, we’re looking to health care expert John Bennet’s “survival guide for health care reform.” He offers three steps all business owners need to take when deciding what health plan to purchase for their workers:

1. Review the plan’s provider network and prescription drug formulary to ensure that all necessary health care providers, facilities, and prescription drugs are included in the plan.

2. Know the difference between a standard and non-standard plan. Standard plans are federally mandated, qualified health plans sold exclusively in the online marketplace. Non-standard plans may include different cost-sharing arrangements and benefits.

3. Understand what wellness benefits, such as gym memberships, weight-loss programs, and fitness classes, are included in your plan. Be sure to check your contract to take advantage of these benefits.

With these tips, small businesses can start preparing themselves for the changes that will come with the ACA. This year, that step is necessary to take – or else businesses may face fines for not complying.

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