Key parts of the Affordable Care Act (referred to here as the ACA) will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014 – but a lot of workers and employers are still unsure about how it will affect them. It’s no mystery that legislation can be difficult to understand. So here, in plain language, are five “secrets” about the ACA that business owners should be aware of.
It’s already here
Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, there’ll be a new way to get health insurance: the Health Insurance Marketplace. But the new law is already making preventive care more affordable and accessible, providing 54 million Americans free access to certain services.
Small businesses get big benefits
For the first time ever, small businesses will have access to an easy-to-use tool for researching and comparing health insurance options: HealthCare.gov. Plus, small business owners will soon be able to offer their employees a range of plans and insurers, and they’ll still be able to choose how much of their employees’ insurance costs to cover. Small businesses will also have access to more affordable private insurance options and may qualify for an ACA tax credit.
Health reform is good business
Health insurance reforms mean lower costs for U.S. businesses. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the ACA would lower health insurance premiums by as much as 3 percent for large businesses and 4 percent for small businesses. Plus, the ACA emphasizes affordability and accountability. Insurance companies will be required to spend at least 80 cents out of every premium dollar on health care or improvements to care – and they must publicly justify their actions if they raise premiums by 10 percent or more for small businesses.
The Affordable Care Act doesn’t just benefit workers; it’s good for families, too. Children can stay on their parents’ insurance plans until the age of 26. And starting in 2014, pregnancy and newborn care will be covered by many plans, as will mental health services.
Time is on your side
Enrollment is open from Oct. 1, 2013, through March 1, 2014 – which means you’ve got plenty of time to explore HealthCare.gov, learn about your options, compare private insurance plans and make a choice that suits your needs.
Phyllis C. Borzi is the assistant secretary of labor for employee benefits security.