Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Affordable Care Act Hopes to Further Even the Playing Field for Small Businesses

The Affordable Care Act is finally coming to fruition. As of today, October 1st, businesses both big and small will have to provide health care information to their workers under law--no business will be required to provide health care benefits though, despite some fear-mongering in the media. Given the publicity in the media about the implementation of the ACA, one would think most employers would be up-to-speed on the ACA. But very few business owners understand what is actually happening with this new law. Actually, very few citizens understand it at all. Even those who have made an attempt at sifting through the new regulations have found that the beast has an intricate network of even more intricate parts, making it a very daunting task.

Those looking to learn more do have options, though. Websites like BusinessUSA--a federal website--can help those looking to learn more about their specific circumstances. Using the wizard provided on this site directed me to some very helpful information. For instance, there will be Health Insurance Marketplaces that open today. One of these will be specific to small businesses--it's called the Small Business Health Options Program or SHOP Marketplace. The health coverage options provided there will be geared toward small businesses and it seems that four categories of plans will be available. According to the website, the plans have comparable benefits to one another but give employers the ability to choose a package based on how the plan and beneficiaries will share health care expenses.  A restaurant owner with 30 employees may find it more feasible to offer a plan that a auto repair shop manager would pass on.  Or vice versa.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is doing its best to make sure that small businesses are apart of what's going on by providing pertinent information. One of the major reasons that the ACA was put into place was to make sure that small businesses receive affordable health care options--according to the SBA, the largest concern for small businesses has been just that: access to affordable health care. And now that it's possible, larger employers may no longer be the only ones getting access to cheaper, more predictable coverage. This will even the playing field, not only by making health care cheaper, but also by making small businesses more attractive to prospective employees.

Some of the obstacles that small businesses faced when it came to health coverage included issues regarding individuals with pre-existing conditions and increased rates for coverage that included older workers, female workers, and workers with chronic issues. Under the ACA, insurance companies will no longer be able to hold a person's pre-existing conditions or chronic issues against them. This means that higher rates will not exist for these individuals and their coverage cannot be denied. The same goes for women and limits will be in place when increasing premiums for coverage that encompasses older workers. The new system will also make sure that risks are mitigated by creating groups similar to those seen within large businesses, making sure that care stays reasonably priced. Feel free to learn more via a slide show posted here by the SBA. It's in your best interests to keep yourself in the loop as a small business owner.

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