March 31—the deadline for enrolling in a health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act—has finally arrived. But while today’s deadline is focused on the individual mandate, small-business owners still need to pay attention as many developments are underway that could affect them.
What do small-business owners need to know about Obamacare?
1. Democrats want to relax employer mandate.
Five Democratic senators introduced a bill last week that would ease the Obamacare employer mandate so that only employers with 100 or more employees would be required to pay for employee health insurance or pay a penalty. Raising the employee number to a minimum of 100 would mean that 98 percent of American businesses would be exempt from the mandate, according to the Associated Press. Already, the employer mandate has been delayed until 2016 with some health care experts even speculating it may ultimately be repealed.
2. Obamacare success stories are emerging.
When the public health insurance exchange went live last fall, the stories among small-business owners were grim as business owners saw their premiums spike. But since last fall, many very encouraging stories have come out about business owners saving a lot of money thanks to Obamacare. In other words, it’s not all doom and gloom. Tara Howard, a freelance copywriter in Westborough, Massachusetts, was able to cut her health insurance premiums in half for her and her teenaged son. She had been paying nearly $2,500 a month for health insurance before Obamacare due to a pre-existing condition. She now pays $1,425 per month through her state’s health care exchange. “Coverage is comparable to what I had before,” she told Colleen DeBaise, director of digital media at The Story Exchange. “Given what my monthly premium was previously, I am coming out way ahead.”
3. Premiums are expected to rise much further.
Many health insurers actually kept their premiums artificially low in hopes of attracting new policyholders when the state and federal exchanges opened last fall. But some industry officials predict that many policyholders will see double-digit premium increases later this year. That’s bad news for Democrats in Congress who need Obamacare to run smoothly in order to bolster their chances in November’s mid-term elections. Democrats are seeking ways to reduce the blow to policyholders, such as requesting that insurers add a cheaper level of coverage, according to The Washington Post.
The perceived success of Obamacare could have a huge impact on the outcome of the November elections and ultimately the future of federal health care reform. If Republicans win big this year and a Republican takes over the White House in 2016, Obamacare could even be dismantled, the Post reports.
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