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What health reform means for the people of Illinois

A blog by IllinoisHealthMatters.org

Monday, June 2, 2014

Supporting Chicago's Entrepreneurs: Marketplace Brings New Health Coverage Options

Finding the right healthcare plan can be stressful, and with all the noise surrounding the new healthcare law, it may seem downright overwhelming. But there’s good news coming out of Illinois. The state’s new health insurance marketplace is open for business, and it’s already providing small business owners and their employees with improved options for affordable coverage.

The new marketplace, Get Covered Illinois, is a partnership marketplace, which means the state and federal government run the marketplace together while Illinois prepares to run the marketplace on its own beginning in 2015. Get Covered Illinois has two branches – one for individuals, the other for small businesses. The individual marketplace is available to any self-employed individual or small business employee whose employer doesn’t offer insurance. Open enrollment for 2015 begins on November 15. In the meantime, employees and self-employed folks can use an online calculator to determine if they’re eligible for a subsidy to help cover the cost of insurance for coverage in 2015.

Many self-employed Chicagoans have already discovered the benefits of enrolling through the state’s marketplace, including Jade Phillips, a local children’s book author. After a brief stint with a precipitously high monthly premium and deductible from a private insurance company, Phillips says she spent the majority of her 20s uncovered. But this year, the self-employed entrepreneur was able to sign up for coverage through the individual market. For the first time in years, she’s enrolled in an affordable plan that allows her to continue doing what she loves while enjoying the peace of mind her new insurance brings.

There’s even more good news for small employers. The small business marketplace has year-round enrollment, so small business owners with fewer than 50 employees looking for a plan have plenty of time to determine if the new marketplace is the right choice. There are more than 230,000 small businesses in the Chicago metropolitan area, but in order for them to take advantage of this new option, entrepreneurs need to know what Get Covered Illinois’ small business marketplace can do for their businesses.

Here are some key facts about the marketplace to help get small employers up to speed.

  • The new health insurance marketplace is one of the most important components of the Affordable Care Act for Chicago small employers. The small business marketplace allows small businesses with fewer than 50 employees to band together when buying coverage – giving them the kind of purchasing clout large businesses enjoy.
  • The marketplace offers businesses more competitive choices, which can help lower premium costs, thus improving their bottom lines.
  • Small employers that do offer coverage through the marketplace may also be eligible for a tax credit of up to 50 percent of your premiums. Check out our tax credit calculator to see if you’re eligible and to receive a tax credit estimate. 
  • Illinois’ small business marketplace will offer employee choice in the future, which means small business workers will be able to choose from a number of plans from different carriers.

In order to begin the enrollment process, Chicago entrepreneurs can visit Get Covered Illinois’ site or Healthcare.gov and begin filling out a paper application, or visit contact a certified health insurance broker who can assist with the enrollment process.

What’s more, Small Business Majority’s certified educators can help answer questions regarding the enrollment process. Check out our state outreach calendar or the Small Business Health Care Consortium’s events page to find an event in your area.

To learn more about the small business marketplace, enrollment dates and coverage plans, visit our Health Coverage Guide (healthcoverageguide.org), which contains a wealth of information for small business owners regarding enrollment, the Affordable Care Act and the healthcare system in general.

The more small business owners know about the new marketplace, the easier it will be for them to get their employees and businesses more affordable insurance coverage. And then, instead of worrying about health insurance, they can do what they do best: run the companies that make up the backbone of our state and our nation. 

Mary Timmel
Midwest Outreach Manager
Small Business Majority


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