Health care reform
December 15, 2011
Small businesses cannot purchase coverage through the Health Insurance Exchanges quite yet, but they can browse the federal portal, look for plans approved in their state and even compare rates.
All plans listed on the government website have met the requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). So far, small business owners can access the following information:
More than 530 insurers have provided information for more than 2,700 coverage plans across all states and the District of Columbia. Visitors to the website can only see those plans approved for their state.
This is the second portal to open up in anticipation of the grand opening of the Health Insurance Exchanges in 2014. Another portal, accessed through the same government website, allows only high-risk individuals who cannot get health insurance due to pre-existing conditions to compare and purchase plans. Individuals outside of this high-risk group will not be able to purchase coverage through the portal until 2014.
Impact to brokers — Medical insurance is just one part of an employer's benefits plan, so brokers will continue to be important resources to help businesses prepare the benefits strategy that best fits their workforce. Brokers can best design a comprehensive benefits strategy, including dental, vision, disability, life and voluntary coverage, such as accident and critical illness insurance. They can also help small businesses understand the implications of plan designs available in the marketplace.
Impact on employers — Small businesses can review medical coverage listed on the “Health Plan Finder” and purchase through that provider. The government is currently offering substantial small business tax credits (until 2014) for small employers who pay at least half the cost of their employees' coverage. Learn more about the tax credit and access a tool to determine whether your business is eligible, and how much of a tax credit you may be able to receive.
Impact to employees/individuals — Once the Exchange is fully operational in 2014, small businesses may offer employees access to all levels of coverage. Or they can specifically select one level — such as the silver or gold level of coverage. Then their employees can go online to select the plan of their choice within the level or levels the employer has designated.