Exchange Board Gets Down to Business

John Arensmeyer

John Arensmeyer

A couple of weeks ago we blogged about California’s newly-created Health Benefit Exchange Board and its first meeting in order to help track the board’s progress in setting up the state’s health insurance exchange. Small business owners are looking forward to 2014, when the exchange will take effect, so they can pool together with other small employers and purchase health insurance at a more affordable rate—which is why what happens at these meetings is so important. The board held its second meeting on Wednesday, and our California Outreach Director David Chase was on hand to get all the details.

Determining how the exchange will be set up in order to get small businesses the most bang for their buck is essential. To this extent, the board heard from Rick Curtis, a leading national expert who works at the Institute for Health Policy Solutions. He spoke about the needs of small businesses and how the SHOP exchange should be built to attract the state’s employers, keep prices low and increase choice and quality. He stressed that:

  • The board should think about the individual and SHOP exchanges as two very different exchanges, serving two different populations with different needs;
  • The SHOP exchange is not subject to the fate that previous failed exchanges in CA have seen because of the new market rules in the ACA;
  • Employee-choice is essential; and
  • The exchange should have a business-friendly customer service function and offer additional administrative services to help save small businesses time and money.

California is leading the nation in setting up its exchanges, so leaders want to make sure the entire process is smooth and gets as much input from the small business community as possible. The points Rick stressed are some of the biggest priorities small business owners have on this issue, because they want more choice and competition, and unlike the current healthcare system, convenience when purchasing a plan that best meets their budget and needs.

Our California Outreach Director, David Chase, also provided the small business perspective on how best to set up the SHOP exchange. He emphasized that the exchange must be easy to use, especially the web portal and customer service function that are meant to allow small business owners to shop in an online marketplace for the right plan. David also reminded board members that the SHOP needs to be a clearly distinguished product from what is currently available in the outside market so small business owners know the difference between different plans when shopping around. And David encouraged the Board to hire a professional staff to manage the exchange so entrepreneurs receive the best customer service possible.

David will be in attendance again when the board reconvenes later this month, and plans to continually provide the small business perspective so small businesses get the relief this exchange has the ability to provide. Stay tuned!

Poll Findings: Provisions of ACA Make Small Business Owners More Likely to Offer Insurance

John Arensmeyer

John Arensmeyer

The new healthcare law remains a hot topic, among lawmakers in our nation’s capitol and the small business community. Since its enactment, many have wondered how small business owners view parts of the law that are aimed at directly improving their ability to afford and purchase health insurance. A national poll we just released should put some of that curiosity to rest. Our survey found that one-third of small business owners are more likely to provide benefits to their workers due to the healthcare tax credits and insurance exchanges established through the new law.

Small Business Majority commissioned a survey of 619 small business owners with fewer than 50 employees from Nov. 17-22, 2010. We wanted to gauge their opinions on two key provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: healthcare tax credits and insurance exchanges. For employers who don’t offer health insurance, one-third said they are more likely to do so because of the tax credits, and 31% of employers who currently offer it said the tax credits will make them more likely to continue offering it. The credits, which are available now, allow businesses with fewer than 25 employees that have average annual wages under $50,000 to get a tax credit of up to 35% of their health insurance costs.

The numbers were nearly identical when respondents were asked if the exchange will make them more likely to provide benefits: 33% of respondents who don’t provide insurance said the exchange would make them more likely to do so, and 31% who do provide insurance responded that the exchange would make them more likely to continuing providing it. The insurance exchanges are online marketplaces where small businesses and individuals can band together to buy insurance.

Previous polling we conducted showed that small business owners want to provide coverage to their employees, but often can’t because of exorbitant premiums—which is why this most recent data is so encouraging. Small business owners’ number one concern is controlling skyrocketing healthcare costs, and these provisions of the ACA do just that.

However, the survey also showed that many small business owners aren’t aware of these two important provisions of the law. This illustrates the need for continued education about these provisions. Only then will small businesses be able to reap the benefits the ACA provides.

For more information on these provisions, check out our FAQ. To determine whether you’re eligible for a tax credit, visit our online tax credit calculator.