WGN Radio’s Ilyce Glink hosted ”Obamacare Essentials for Small Business Owners, Presented by WGN Radio & COUNTRY Financial” on Friday, November 22nd at the Hyatt Lodge McDonald’s Campus in Oakbrook, IL.
During the 3 hour event, Ilyce was joined by experts, Allison Szot (President, Woven Word LLC) and Bruce Japsen (Health care contributing editor, Forbes Magazine), along with a group of panelists for an in-depth discussion on the Affordable Care Act.
Session 1: “What you need to know”
Session 2: “What you need to do and the options you have”
Session 3: “Saving money and the next steps”
Clip 1: What does Obamacare mean for your small business’ health insurance premiums? Since many of the rules have changed over the past few months, it is easy for business owners to become confused about what they will need to pay for their employees. Matt Johnston of insurer Country Financial explains how guaranteed issue health insurance will affect rates and influence important renewal decisions.
Clip 2: Business owners frequently ask Blue Cross Blue Shield Senior Vice President for Markets Kevin Cassidy about the employer mandate set forth by the Affordable Care Act. To better understand its purpose, he recommends taking a look at the law’s three main intentions: It aims to cover Americans without health insurance, provide better coverage for those who need it and provide coverage at affordable rates.
Clip 3: Does everyone win when the Affordable Care Act’s 10 essential health benefits are all covered by law? Health care journalist Bruce Japsen sheds light on some pros and cons of offering the same coverage to all employees, regardless of whether they plan to use it. At the end of the day, however, he believes there will be fewer surprises for small businesses.
Clip 4: Uniform coverage requirements should make it easier for small business owners to shop for insurance. Kevin Cassidy, Senior Vice President for Markets at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, clarifies the difference between the two kinds of coverage requirements, the 10 essential health benefits and preventative services, and describes subsidies that are available to some businesses and individuals through HealthCare.gov.
Clip 5: Small business owners hear a lot about the negative aspects of choosing health insurance coverage post-Obamacare, but what are the positives? While the end of this year may be the last opportunity to renew some current plans, Blue Cross Blue Shield Senior Vice President for Markets Kevin Cassidy believes there are clear reasons for some employers to make the switch early. Namely, the new plans may benefit employees the most.
Clip 6: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois is offering employers several options for plan renewal during the critical transition to Affordable Care Act compliance. Kevin Cassidy, Senior Vice President for Markets at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, spells out these choices and explains how business owners will be able to determine and compare differences in coverage and cost.
Clip 7: The Affordable Care Act requires coverage to fall into one of four categories — bronze, silver, gold and platinum — but what does each offer employees? Blue Cross Blue Shield Senior Vice President for Markets Kevin Cassidy goes into detail about their differences and offers three simple suggestions to help you make the best decision for your business. Once you understand the premium costs, evaluate how much of a deductible employees can withstand and know the size of each provider network, you may be surprised to learn that platinum is not always ideal for everyone.
Clip 8: In the past, insurance costs for employers were largely dependent on the medical history of their employees. Matt Johnston of Country Financial explains that post-Obamacare the only kinds of underwriting for coverage are age, tobacco use and location. By understanding these factors, as well as the way states are divided into districts, business owners can get a good idea of what they will need to spend.
Clip 9: As a business owner, you know health insurance is on your employees’ radar more than ever. The question now is, should you choose a group plan or invite workers into the individual marketplace? Matt Johnston of Country Financial presents the options you have, and suggests that in some instances businesses and employees are better off making choices on an individual basis, as long as they understand all the legal and financial issues involved.
Clip 10: Do your employees qualify for a government health insurance subsidy? If they are paying more than 9 1/2 percent of their income, it is very likely. Blue Cross Blue Shield Senior Vice President for Markets Kevin Cassidy clarifies the criteria and what they mean for the plan you should offer.
Clip 11: Health insurance subsidy and tax credit amounts are based on the coverage option with the second-lowest deductible, the silver plan. However, if employers choose to make a defined contribution to their employees’ healthcare, it does not mean individuals are ineligible for the high-cost platinum option. Country Financial’s Matt Johnston outlines the financial risk employees face with each of their four plan options.
Clip 12: From a taxation perspective, the Affordable Care Act is easier to understand when it is broken down to its four main fundamentals. Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at CCH, puts the individual and employer tax credits and mandates in plain English and presents business owners with the relevant compliance dates they need to know going into 2014.
Clip 13: How many employees must you have to be eligible for an insurance tax credit? Do their average wages matter? CCH Principal Federal Tax Analyst Mark Luscombe lays out the numbers.
Clip 14: Many small business owners are concerned about penalties they could face if they are not Affordable Care Act-compliant. One common apprehension is correctly distinguishing part-time from full-time employees. Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at CCH, presents information to ensure employers with over 50 workers are offering at least the minimum essential coverage and are able to compete with the healthcare exchange to avoid fees.
Clip 15: Is the healthcare plan you’re offering affordable? Rich Fahn, owner of Excell Benefit Group, demonstrates the complexity of this seemingly simple question and encourages small business owners to consult brokers or consultants with tools to help them meet Affordable Care Act criteria.
Clip 16: Health insurance carriers have always had multiple plans to choose from, but a lot of post-Obamacare plans will look different than what small businesses have seen historically. Costs will go up for some companies and down for others. Excell Benefit Group Owner Rich Fahn reinforces the idea that there’s never one coverage answer for everyone.
Clip 17: New IRS laws make it possible for employers to roll over leftover funds in healthcare flexible spending accounts into the next year for the first time. While this is good news overall for small business owners, like most IRS regulations it comes with confusing caveats. CCH Principal Federal Tax Analyst Mark Luscombe clears up key decisions related to this change that employers will need to make this year.
Clip 18: A good broker can mean the difference between a simple and painstaking Affordable Care Act transition for small business owners. Rich Fahn, owner of Excell Benefit Group, encourages employers to seek help answering their compliance questions.
Clip 19: The only way to qualify for an employer tax credit is through the SHOP exchange, or Small Business Health Options Program. What if small business owners want to look outside the SHOP? Excell Benefit Group Owner Rich Fahn accounts for each of the participating insurers to help you decide.
Clip 20: What is the first step in creating your own health insurance decision tree? Excell Benefit Group Owner Rich Fahn believes business owners must understand their company culture and belief systems. If employers are committed to insuring their workers, the next step is to make sure cost and Affordable Care Act compliance issues are addressed.
Clip 21: The employer health insurance tax credit is available today, so why is enrollment so low? Kevin Cassidy, Senior Vice President for Markets at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, sheds light on the more complicated aspects of the SHOP exchange in which small business owners must participate to qualify. While often the SHOP, or Small Business Health Options Program, is a simpler option for businesses, it does not allow them to offer employees multiple plans.
Clip 22: Blue Cross Blue Shield Senior Vice President for Markets Kevin Cassidy offers three considerations for small business owners who want to choose the best possible health insurance plan for themselves and their employees. Once employers understand the premium cost they can afford, what kind of coverage they want and which doctors and hospitals they want to access, making a decision will be that much easier.
Clip 23: Healthcare inflation is continuing to outpace the consumer price index. In light of this, should small business owners stick with their current insurance plans this year or move forward with one that is compliant with the Affordable Care Act? Kevin Cassidy, Senior Vice President for Markets at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, indicates some shifting costs you can expect in 2014 and emphasizes that there are never any absolutes.
Clip 24: Since employers are not permitted to solicit medical information from their workers, what is the best way to ensure that everyone’s current doctors are kept in-network? Excell Benefit Group Owner Rich Fahn recommends ways to communicate your intentions clearly to employees and ensure they have the resources they need to help you determine the best coverage options to keep everyone at your company as happy and healthy as possible.
Clip 25: Once you are certain that the right doctors are covered by the health insurance plan you have chosen for your small business, it’s time to think about quality. Blue Cross Blue Shield Senior Vice President for Markets Kevin Cassidy describes a positive shift in the amount of information that is readily available to healthcare consumers and how it affects decision-making.
Clip 26: Have you ever been tempted to offer your employees money to purchase healthcare on their own? Rich Fahn, owner of Excell Benefit Group, explains that due to IRS restrictions on health reimbursement arrangements and new Affordable Care Act compliance laws you should tread lightly. He strongly recommends consulting your accountants and lawyers to make sure you are on track.
Clip 27: There are premium healthcare subsidies and there are cost-sharing subsidies, but what is the difference and who can take advantage of them? Kevin Cassidy, Senior Vice President for Markets at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, lays out the eligibility rules that affect individuals and businesses and describes how they influence plan selection.
Ilyce Glink is an award-winning real estate and personal finance expert, “Good Cents” contributor to WGN radio, WSB radio talk show host and best-selling author.
Alison Szot is an experienced journalist and communication strategist. She is the head of Woven Word LLC, a corporate and marketing communications consultancy that advises businesses of all sizes in multiple industries. She holds a Master of Health Services Administration from the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. Click Here for full bio.
Bruce is a former health care business reporter at the Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Modern Healthcare magazine who currently writes for Forbes, the New York Times, and Chicago Medicine magazine. He writes about Obama administration policies, pharmaceutical and device makers, economic issues, managed-care companies, doctor practices and other physician issues. Click Here for full bio.
Matt Johnston: Manager of Life/Health Insurance Solutions, COUNTRY Life
Rich Fahn: Founder and President, Excell Benefit Group, LLC
Mark Luscombe, JD, LLM, CPA: Principal Federal Tax Analyst, CCH
Kevin Cassidy: SVP Markets, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois