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Albrecht discusses health care reform at OneRedmond lunch
The six-month open enrollment period for the new health insurance marketplace through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has begun, and as with the start of most new programs, many people have questions about what this means for them.
Albrecht’s presentation, “Health Care Reform — Just the Facts,” went over the ACA and how it will affect employers of all sizes.
She said employers with fewer than 25 employees may be eligible for health care tax credits through the IRS to help cover the cost of coverage for their employees. Employers must meet the following requirements to qualify: They must provide health insurance to employees and cover at least half the cost; they must have fewer than 25 full-time workers and their workers’ average annual salary must be less than $50,000.
Beginning next year, Albrecht said small businesses with up to 50 employees will be able to access the health insurance marketplace (sometimes referred to as the exchange) through the Small Businesses Health Options Program (SHOP) — although, this will only be available in select counties in Washington. Employers with more than 50 employees may be eligible to purchase coverage from the marketplace in 2017.
Sue Jarvis, owner of Redmond Cable Corporation (RCC), falls under the small business category with fewer than 50 employees, and since the ACA has gone into effect, she has been attending any informational meetings she can to learn more about it.
“We don’t have a designated human resources department,” she said about why it is important for her to know this information, adding that she does not want to be penalized for not knowing if she is required to provide some sort of coverage for employees. “I don’t have an on-staff expert (who knows this information).”
Jarvis said currently, RCC does not provide health insurance for its employees, but they do offer a health care allotment as a subsidy for coverage for workers to purchase their own insurance.
“We owe them something,” she said. “We just can’t afford the (full coverage).”
Albrecht also went over how businesses with more than 50 full-time employees will be affected by the ACA.
She said employers under this umbrella will be required to offer affordable, minimum-level health care coverage or face a penalty. Employers are also required to provide their employees with a “Summary of Benefits and Coverage” explaining their plan coverage and cost. These summaries will be standardized, Albrecht said, so people will be able to compare plans side by side.
Under the new ACA, there is also an individual mandate that most Americans obtain health insurance by Jan. 1 of next year. Those not in compliance will face penalties. Albrecht said there are a few exemptions to the mandate: Individuals whose religion opposes the acceptance of benefits from health insurance; undocumented immigrants; incarcerated individuals; American Indian tribe members; families with incomes below the threshold required to file a tax return and individuals who must pay more than 8 percent of their income for health insurance (after taking into account employer contributions or tax credits).
Open enrollment with the health insurance marketplace goes through March 31, 2014. For more information, visit wahealthplanfinder.org.