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What health reform means for the people of Illinois

A blog by IllinoisHealthMatters.org

Monday, September 12, 2011

5 Ways Health Care Reform Will Benefit Illinois Small Businesses

Illinois has strong, vibrant neighborhoods and small businesses play a vital part in those communities. However, while small businesses are working to meet their bottom line, it can be challenging for them to afford to provide health insurance for their employees. According to the Small Business Majority, an average of 86% of small businesses owners who don't offer health coverage to their employees say they can't afford to provide it. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has put into place reforms – some right now and some rolling out later – that will make it easier for the owners of small businesses to buy affordable insurance. Below we list five ways that health care reform will benefit Illinois small businesses and their employees.

At Ruby's Restaurant, Health Care May Be On The Table - Images by Jay Dunn

1. RIGHT NOW: Since March 2010, tax credits are being offered to small businesses owners with 25 or fewer full time equivalent employees in order to help them offset the costs of providing health insurance. Until 2014, small businesses who pay for at least half of their employees’ health care premiums will receive a tax credit to offset 35% of those premium costs. Starting in 2014, the tax credit will increase: for those small businesses who buy insurance through the insurance exchange (see #5 below), the tax credit increases to 50%. September 15th is an important deadline for filing so check out the tax credit calculator here to see if you are eligible.

2. RIGHT NOW: Small businesses often struggle with unpredictable and often steep health insurance premium increases from year to year. One of the priorities of the Affordable Care Act is to implement consumer protections so that insurance companies are more transparent and accountable with things like premium increases. As of September 1, 2011, health insurers seeking to increase their premium rates by 10 percent or more must submit their request to state or federal reviewers to determine whether they are reasonable or not. This rate review program will bring more predictability to health insurance costs and in many cases will lower costs for small business owners.

3. RIGHT NOW: Many small business owners cannot purchase affordable insurance, because they have a pre-existing condition. A pre-existing condition is a physical or mental health condition, disability or illness that you have before you enrolled in a health plan. If you or your employees are uninsured and have a pre-existing condition, you may be eligible for the Illinois Pre Existing Condition Insurance Plan, which is an insurance plan that was established by the Affordable Care Act. Questions? Call the Toll Free Number: (877) 210-9167, or email your question directly to IPXPInquiry@healthalliance.org.

4. LATER: Under the Affordable Care Act, denying health coverage or excluding benefits due to a pre-existing condition will no longer be allowed. As a result, if you have a pre-existing condition that has prevented you from buying affordable insurance for yourself and your employees, on January 1, 2014, it will not make you uninsurable any longer. This change is already in place for children under age 19.

5. LATER: The new health reform law establishes a competitive healthcare marketplace, commonly known as an “insurance exchange” run by each state or the Federal government. Slated to be up and running by the beginning of 2014 in Illinois, the Exchange will make purchasing insurance easier for individuals and small businesses by giving them the power to compare health care plans in one digital hub. The Exchange will also ensure that quality health insurance options are available – and that subsidies are also available to those who need them. These online marketplaces will create competition among insurance companies that will help to drive down the costs of insurance. More information about Illinois’ progress toward establishing an Exchange, can be found here.

If you have questions about the new health care law and how it affects you or your small business, submit your questions here and we will write you back.

An employee and customer at Ruby’s. The owners of the restaurant currently can’t afford to pay for health insurance for their employees, but that could change with the Affordable Care Act reforms


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