If your company does not offer small business health insurance, you are likely gearing up for this year's open enrollment on the individual market. You may also be hearing that many 2016 plans are being discontinued in 2017 due to some insurance companies cutting back on Marketplace coverage.
If you have employees who are losing their current Marketplace health plan, how can you help? Let’s look at ways you, as a small business owner, can prepare yourself for questions from employees before open enrollment begins on November 1.
Background: Why Employees May Be Losing Coverage
It's been big news. Citing massive losses, insurance giants Aetna, Humana, and UnitedHealth announced plans to pull Marketplace coverage from multiple counties across the country in 2017.
Bloomberg estimates that 1.4 million people in 32 states will lose their current health coverage on January 1, forcing them to shop for a new plan in the fall.
For employers not offering small business health insurance, it’s important to remember you are still a resource for your employees. You are a person whom they trust they can talk to. Be sure you’ve got your ducks in a row by reviewing pertinent ACA information ahead of time.
Helping Your Employees in Search of a New Plan
A preview of 2017 health plans is already available on healthcare.gov. Encourage your employees to look now so they are prepared when the Marketplaces open on November 1. They can even include preferred doctors and prescriptions they will need in their search.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws prohibit you from asking your employees for medical information, so you will not be able to assist them once they begin entering information. However, they can get help from a licensed broker who can answer specific questions.
The most important thing you can do to help is to make sure your benefits package is ready to go. Remember, you don’t have to offer small business health insurance to provide benefits.
Many small- and micro- businesses set up a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) or healthcare reimbursement plan (HRP) to reimburse employess for their individual and Marketplace plan. (Just remember to work with a knowledgable reimbursement software provider to ensure the plan complies with all current regulations and reforms.)
Open Enrollment Dates
Be sure to pass along important open enrollment dates to your employees:
November 1, 2016 - Open enrollment begins. This is the first day you can enroll, renew, or make changes to a 2017 insurance plan through the ACA Marketplace in your state, or private insurance website.
December 15, 2016 - Last day to enroll in or change plans for coverage to start January 1, 2017.
January 1, 2017 - The first day 2017 coverage starts for those who enrolled in and paid for coverage by December 15.
January 31, 2017 - Last day to enroll in or change a 2017 health plan. After this date, you can only enroll or change plans if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.
Tip: It may also be prudent to email reminders to your employees as each date approaches.
With this year's health insurance sign-up period upon us, many small business employees have questions regarding their 2017 health plan options - especially if their plan is being cancelled or discontinued. Even if you do not offer small business health insurance, your employees may come to you for answers. While you may not have all the answers, you can help them understand how to select and purchase a new plan, the important deadlines, and where to turn for further help.
How is your small business helping to cover the cost of health insurance? What questions do you have about this year's open enrollment period? Let us know in the comments below!