The federal government is making some changes to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that will benefit small businesses. President Obama signed into law updates that change the definition of “small employer,” according to Kaiser Health News.


“Companies with 51 to 100 workers will not become subject to the small group insurance reform provisions next year,” according to Kaiser Health News. “Instead, the new law allows those companies to continue as large group plans, unless states step in to define them differently.”


The change, which had bipartisan support, changes coverage and cost requirements for some businesses’ plan offerings, according to Kaiser. “Coverage in the small group health insurance market has historically tended to be skimpier and pricier than coverage in large group plans. The health law established new rules for employers with 50 or fewer workers who offer insurance that took effect in 2014: It required all plans to cover 10 ‘essential health benefits’ and established standardized cost-sharing limits and maximum annual spending caps,” according to the story.


But in most cases, large group plans don’t have to comply with these requirements. Some other ACA changes will benefit small businesses, as well. With the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act, “employers can exclude full-time employees who served in the U.S. military — and who currently receive veterans’ health insurance — from the ACA’s 50-or-more full-time employee threshold count,” writes Melissa A. Winn for Employee Benefit Adviser. “The exclusion is intended to encourage employers to hire more veterans by giving them some relief from the ACA’s employer mandate.” It only applies when veteran employees are covered through Tricare, the federal veterans’ health program, or through the Veterans Affairs Department.


Small employers also have another factor working in their favor, writes Alice Gilman for Business Management Daily. “Under the ACA, any employer must be allowed to buy a group plan at any point during the year. That’s referred to as rolling open enrollment. But another provision applies to small employers,” Gilman writes. “Small employers that can’t comply with minimum participation and contribution requirements have a special open enrollment period that begins Nov. 15 and ends Dec. 15. Even better: Under the rules that apply to guarantee the availability of coverage, insurers must offer all products that are approved for sale in a state and must accept any employer that applies for any of those products.”