(Graphic: Business Wire)

New research from Accenture (NYSE:ACN) estimates that total employer penalties related to the health insurance mandates from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) are expected to reach $31 billion for 2016, nearly 50 percent above original estimates.

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(Graphic: Business Wire)

(Graphic: Business Wire)

Under the PPACA's " employer mandate," employers that fail to offer health coverage to their employees are subject to financial penalties. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has projected that non-compliant employers - i.e., those not offering coverage - could face $21 billion in penalties for the 2016 tax-reporting period.

However, an Accenture analysis has identified a new segment of employers, deemed "unintentionally non-compliant," whose penalty exposure could amount to an additional $10 billion during the 2016 tax period. This group represents employers that offer compliant health coverage yet fail to meet IRS reporting requirements needed to demonstrate compliance under the law. In total, employer penalty exposure could reach $31 billion for 2016, compared with an estimated $11 billion for 2015.

"The challenge is that limited awareness exists on the magnitude of potential penalties," said Scott Brown, managing director of payer consulting, Accenture. "This is further compounded by an increase in coverage requirements despite that many employers are unaware of penalties incurred from last year."

Under the PPACA's mandate, employers with more than 50 full-time employees must provide health insurance benefits to avoid two potential penalties. For the 2016 benefit year, to avoid incurring the "part A" penalty, employers must offer minimum essential coverage (MEC) to 95 percent of employees and dependents under 26 years-old. Employers that meet the MEC threshold could still face the "part B" penalty if they fail to meet either the minimum value or affordability requirements included in the law.

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