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  • Panel offers Affordable Care Act guidance for small businesses

    Aug 29, 2013 | Read More News
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    Small businesses in Pima County need to understand their options and responsibilities under the Affordable Care Act as the Oct. 1 launch of open enrollment in the health insurance marketplace nears.
    Affordable Care Act forum
    That was the message delivered to more than 200 people, most of them small business owners and managers, who attended a forum Wednesday presented by the Pima County Workforce Investment Board.

    Participants in the forum included Pima County Public Health Director Dr. Francisco Garcia; Peter Beahan, a CPA with BeachFleischman PC; attorney Joel Wakefield; Jay Heydt with Crest Insurance Group; and Kathy Oestreich, CEO of Meritus Health Partners, the only nonprofit cooperative that will be selling insurance through the state exchange. Meritus hosted the event.

    Pima County has a stake in all its residents having health insurance because it will help them achieve better health and receive better care, Dr. Garcia said.
    Dr. Francisco Garcia
    With 80.5 percent of the County’s population covered now, we have the highest or second-highest coverage rate of any county in Arizona, he said. But only 90 percent of our children are covered, which places Pima County in “the middle of the pack,” he said.

    “We should do better than that,” Garcia said.

    Points made at the event as well as on the federal government’s Affordable Care Act website – www.HealthCare.gov – included:
    • Employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act must notify their employees by Oct. 1 about the health insurance marketplace and whether the employees might qualify for a tax credit or lose any employers’ contribution to health benefits if they purchase insurance through the marketplace.
    • Employers of fewer than 50 employees are not required to offer health insurance to their employees. But if they do, they must offer the same coverage for all employees and pay the same amount of all employees’ premiums (no more better deals for management). If they offer health insurance to their employees, they are not required to offer dependent coverage.
    • Employers with 50 or fewer full-time employees can use the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) marketplace to compare price, coverage, and quality of plans. If employers use SHOP, their employees can enroll through SHOP after the employers decide how much they will pay toward employee premiums.
    • Employers with fewer than 25 full-time employees making an average of $50,000 a year or less may qualify for a small business health care tax credit through SHOP of up to 50 percent of the employers’ contribution if the employer pays at least 50 percent of the employees’ premium costs.
    • Beginning in 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to charge higher rates for pre-existing conditions, for women or because of an individual’s health status.

    Jay Heydt, a vice president with Crest Insurance Group, advised the small business owners and managers in the audience who offer insurance to their employees to consider these questions:
    • Is the plan they currently offer employees in compliance with the Affordable Care Act?
    • What will it cost them to cancel their plan and send their employees to the health insurance marketplace?
    • What penalties are they subject to based on their plans today?
    • How much will it cost them to make the changes to bring their plans into compliance?

    The insurance companies that plan to participate in the SHOP marketplace include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Cigna HealthCare of Arizona and Meritus Health Partners.

    Coverage under the Affordable Care Act begins Jan. 1, 2014.

    The Pima County Workforce Investment Board is appointed by the Pima County Board of Supervisors to provide recommendations on local workforce policy and oversight of the Pima County One-Stop Career Center. One-Stop connects eligible job-ready youth, adult and dislocated workers with employers in local growth, high-demand industry occupations. The Workforce Investment Board includes representatives of local businesses, nonprofits and educational institutions.