Effective October 1, 2014, health insurance marketplaces in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia are opening for business. These marketplaces, also called exchanges, are one-stop shops through which consumers can purchase health insurance coverage for themselves and their families. Small business owners can go to the state marketplace to get quotes and insurance for themselves and their employees. Low income citizens and legal residents may also apply for Medicaid coverage for themselves and their families under expanded eligibility rules in many states. In California, these plans are all available through Covered California.
The marketplaces are designed to help the approximately 15% of Americans and legal immigrants who currently purchase their own insurance or who have been unable to obtain insurance due to pre-existing conditions or the high cost of the insurance. Policies are now available that offer affordable insurance and the access to healthcare that they provide. Through a program of tax credits for persons with income from 138-400% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), premiums will become affordable for millions of people. These tax credits can be used to reduce the monthly cost of the insurance or they can be claimed when filing income tax returns in the next year.
Small business owners who purchase coverage for their employees may also qualify for income tax credits that help reduce their cost of providing insurance for those employees. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, small business owners were at a disadvantage when they looked for employee health insurance because the pool of insureds was too small for them to get the lower rates offered to large groups who brought larger pools of employees to the table. With the Affordable Care Act’s Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP), small employers will be offered more coverage options, rates that reflect a larger pool of insureds, and options to bring the cost of offering insurance under better control. Some will also receive tax advantages for offering insurance. Through this program, it is hoped that more Americans will join the ranks of those whose insurance comes through their employers.
As the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act continues, more information and updates will be available here. At Pozos Insurance Services, we are committed to helping our clients select the best plans that meet their personal and business needs for health insurance. We look forward to hearing from you.