By: Kathryn Mayer

Most small businesses either incorrectly believe or aren’t sure whether they must provide health insurance to employees in 2014, according to a recent survey of small business owners by eHealth.

Beginning in 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires businesses with the equivalent of 50 or more full-time employees to provide health insurance coverage for their workers. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from this requirement, although employees may be required to purchase their own coverage.

The eHealthInsurance survey was conducted in August and received responses from 439 small businesses.

Based on their size (fewer than 50 employees), only two of the businesses surveyed would be required by the PPACA to offer health insurance coverage to employees in 2014. But one-third incorrectly believed that they were required to buy insurance for employees in 2014, while 35 percent weren’t sure. Nearly 70 percent either incorrectly believed or were not sure whether they would be required to pay a tax for not providing health insurance in 2014. Only 31 percent of respondents correctly said that the reform law does not require them to pay a tax if they don’t offer insurance.

Another main part of health reform—health insurance exchanges—isn’t factoring into employers’ strategies. Most small business owners (78 percent) said they weren’t familiar with health insurance exchanges and how they could impact their business. Exchanges, which are slated to come online by 2014, would make subsidized health insurance available to individuals who don’t have access to health insurance through an employer.

The eHealth poll is yet another survey reporting similar findings: Health reform is confusing both employees and their employers.

Though the Supreme Court upheld the PPACA in June, many employers continued their wait-and-see approach until after the presidential election. Republican Mitt Romney had promised that he would work on repeal of the law if elected.

The survey also found that nearly a third of small businesses (29 percent) said they would consider dropping coverage for their employees in 2014. The majority, at 68 percent, said they don’t have plans to do so, while 3 percent said they planned to stop offering coverage.

The survey also addressed their willingness to adopt new cost-cutting strategies.

To reduce costs, more than half (51 percent) said they would increase employees’ share of premiums. Nearly 40 percent would consider increasing employees’ deductibles. Nearly half of the employers surveyed (44 percent) felt it would be fair to impose penalties on employees who don’t participate in wellness programs.