Coming Soon: The Health Insurance Marketplace

The next change resulting from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) takes effect October 1, 2013, when open enrollment in the “Health Insurance Marketplace” begins. Intended to provide a “competitive insurance marketplace” for affordable and qualified health benefit plans, there is much speculation on whether or not millions of consumers and businesses will actually find the coverage reasonably priced. As insurers ramp up preparations for October 1, the government says there are things that small businesses can do to get ready as well:

  1. Understand how insurance works (e.g., the difference between premiums, deductibles and co-payments).
  2. Learn about different types of health insurance to determine a level of coverage that will give you and your employees the right balance of cost and benefits.
  3. Start thinking about when to begin coverage.
  4. Set a budget for group coverage, taking into account how much your employees can spend for their coverage.
  5. Get organized by having basic information about your business available (e.g., list of employees who will be covered and tax ID number).
  6. Make a list of questions you have before it’s time to choose which health plans you’ll offer.
  7. Look for help from your health insurance agent or broker.

It will depend on your particular situation whether or not these suggestions are helpful, and much will depend on what happens with the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). Under the ACA, small businesses will be able to offer employees new health plan choices through the SHOP, an insurance market set up specifically for small businesses. While this was supposed to take effect January 2014, the federal government recently announce that the SHOP will be delayed until 2015. Small business employees will still be able to get insurance for the first year, but states have the option to limit that to one plan, rather than a variety of plans. This delayed availability of varied choices for small businesses will likely hamper businesses’ ability to negotiate better rates.

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