Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and for the 28 million small employers across the country, healthcare is a major concern. The Affordable Care Act provides benefits and opportunities to small businesses that will help increase access to affordable coverage options.
Here are five key ways the Affordable Care Act can benefit small employers and their workers:
- SHOP Marketplaces: Currently, small businesses face premiums that are on average 18% higher than large businesses. On October 1, 2013, the new Small Business Health Insurance Options Program (SHOP) Marketplaces will be open for businesses, and small employers in every state will be able to shop for health coverage on a competitive marketplace, that brings unprecedented transparency to the market and gives small businesses the same purchasing clout as big businesses.
- Reducing Administrative Complexity: SHOP Marketplaces include web portals that provide standardized, easy-to-understand information that will make comparing and purchasing coverage easier, and will simplify the administrative challenges that businesses often face when offering plans. Visit www.HealthCare.gov to learn more about the SHOP Marketplace and to get ready for open enrollment.
- New Tax Credits: The small business tax credit helps small businesses afford the cost of healthcare coverage for their employees, and is already helping qualifying small businesses offset the cost of insurance by up to 35%. In 2014, this tax credit goes up to 50% and is available to qualified small businesses who obtain coverage through the SHOP Marketplace.
- Improved Risk Pooling: The new SHOP Marketplaces will allow small groups to pool risks and reduce administrative complexity, thereby increasing their purchasing power and reducing costs for small businesses that want to provide coverage to their workers. Business can enroll starting on October 1, 2013, through their brokers, or directly through the SHOP Marketplace. Stay connected to the latest information on the Marketplaces by going to www.HealthCare.gov.
- Workplace Wellness: The Affordable Care Act creates new incentives to promote workplace wellness programs and encourages employers to take more opportunities to support healthier workplaces. Effective for plan years after January 1, 2014, final rules allow the maximum reward to employers using a health-contingent wellness program to increase from 20 percent to 30 percent of the cost of health coverage, and the maximum reward for programs designed to prevent or reduce tobacco use will be as much as 50 percent.
To help provide small business owners with the resources and information they need, the Obama Administration recently launched Businesss.USA.gov/healthcare, a one-shop where employers of all sizes can go for customizable information about how the law impacts them, based on the size, location and future plans for offering coverage. And, the Department of Health and Human Services launched a call center specifically to serve the needs of small businesses interested in the SHOP Marketplace. This call center (1-800-706-7893) is a new resource to help business owners get information to make the right decision for their bottom line and their employees. It’s open Monday-Friday from 9 AM- 5 PM, with representatives available to help in English and Spanish.
The Small Business Administration has also teamed up with Small Business Majority to offer a weekly webinar series designed to educate small business owners about what the healthcare law means for them. To sign up for a weekly Thursday Webinar before open enrollment starts on October 1, 2013, visit the Small Business Administration Webinar page. .