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Debo’s Diners Inc. the local Steak N Shake franchisee offered health insurance for all of its full-time restaurant employees long before the Affordable Care Act mandated such benefits.

But company president Matt Richman still discovered recently the business faced a new challenge from the requirements of so-called Obamacare. Under the law, employers with more than 50 full-time employees must file forms 1094-C and 1095-C by January for calendar 2015 or risk Internal Revenue Service penalties.

The company operates five Steak ‘n Shake restaurants in the Chattanooga area and two Steak ‘n Shake restaurants in Knoxville which collectively employ about 450 employees at one time and more than 800 workers through the year.

“Getting all of the reports about our insurance coverage options to each of those employees is going to be a big undertaking and will take us a lot of hours to meet that requirement,” Richman said. “We’ve always put people before profits, but there are a lot of records we must compile by the end of the year and send out by January.”

Debo’s Diners has turned to the local payroll company Paypro HCS to help prepare and distribute the required forms. Established in 1994, Paypro HCS is among the largest providers of automated payroll processing and HR management in the region.

“ACA requirements are extensive and numerous, and many human resource professionals don’t have the time or proper technology to collect the extensive amounts of data needed to file accurate and timely reports,” said Rhonda Champion, a certified public accountant and chief operating officer for Paypro.

A recent survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans projects 2016 “is expected to be the most costly year for employers” since Congress adopted the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

“The increased complexity of the process has resulted in cost increases, especially for smaller businesses,” said Mike Steele, executive vice president of Paypro HCS.

PayPro and other payroll and HR consulting firms are busy this fall helping employers meet the new reporting standards, even while enrollment begins for the ACA individual health exchanges on Sunday and many employers open enrollment for next year’s health benefits in the final months of the year.

“It’s a very busy time for all of us and it’s important that employers understand and meet the new requirements,” Champion said.

The new forms detailing what health insurance coverage was provided or made available in 2015 is critical to enforcing the insurance mandates of the Affordable Care Act. Employers with 50 or more full-time employees that don’t provide health insurance must pay a $2,000 fee per employee. Individuals who don’t have insurance or opt not to purchase their employers’ plans in 2016 will pay a penalty of 2.5 percent of their income or $695 per person ($347.50 per child under age 18) up to a family maximum of $2,085.

J.D. Hickey, president of Tennessee’s biggest health insurer, Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield, said Wednesday he expects the increased penalties, an improving job market and growing acceptance of the expanded health coverage options under Obamacare should all combine to boost the number of insured persons in Tennessee next year.

“We expect to see further growth in our enrollment again in 2016,” Hickey said.