As the acting regional administrator for the Great Lakes Region of the Small Business Administration, my goal is to make sure small businesses in Wisconsin have the information they need about the Affordable Care Act to make informed decisions that are best for their businesses.
With new Health Insurance Marketplaces (also referred to as Exchanges) open, self-employed business owners have more options than ever to find affordable health care coverage. Self-employed individuals and other consumers can purchase private insurance coverage from a range of options and depending on income and residency, potentially qualify for additional subsidies like Medicaid or tax credits.
Coming up, there are some important dates that self-employed business owners need to know if they want to sign up for coverage for this year.
- For self-employed small business owners, open enrollment for 2014 coverage ends March 31, 2014. The exception is if you have a qualifying life event that provides you with a special enrollment period such as marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of a child, or loss of a job.
- The next Open Enrollment period is proposed to begin on November 15, 2014 for health insurance coverage that begins January 1, 2015.
You can apply for Medicaid or CHIP at any time of the year.
Why enroll? First, increased access to quality, affordable health care will make it easier for potential entrepreneurs to go out on their own instead of staying at larger firms simply because of "job lock" or the lack of access to affordable insurance outside of their current employment. Additionally, small business owners have historically paid as much as 18% more for health care coverage than larger companies. The Affordable Care Act helps level the playing field, slows cost growth, and with consumer protections like insurance rate reviews and a ban on denying coverage for preexisting conditions in place, provides greater certainty that small business owners can access the coverage they need, when they need it. If you don't have health coverage in 2014, you may have to pay a penalty. You don't have to pay the penalty if you enroll in a plan by March 31, 2014.
To find an insurance plan that meets your needs today, check out the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) insurance finder tool. By answering just a few simple questions, you'll be able to locate health insurance plans in your state and explore whether there are local facilities in your area that provide free or reduced-cost health care.
To browse coverage options, assess potential subsidies, and purchase your plan online through the individual marketplace, simply go to www.healthcare.gov.
For more information about other provisions affecting self-employed business owners under the Affordable Care Act, go to sba.gov/healthcare.
Eric Ness is acting regional administrator at the U.S. Small Business Administration.