oct. 1 saw the launch of shop marketplaces, new vehicles for small businesses to purchase health insurance for their employees.

" /> "Obamacare" Health Exchanges Open for Small Businesses - JCK

“Obamacare” Health Exchanges Open for Small Businesses

On Oct. 1, the federal government and many states launched SHOP Marketplaces, new vehicles for small businesses to purchase health insurance for their employees.

The Small Business Health Options Program online insurance exchanges, launched in accordance with the federal Affordable Care Act, give businesses with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees a new tool to shop for insurance to their employees. (For the purposes of the law, a full-time employee is defined as one working 30 hours or less.)

Business owners can access the exchange serving their state via the healthcare.gov website.

Employers are allowed to control the coverage they offer as well as premium levels. The coverage begins on Jan. 1, 2014. 

The law does not require businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees to offer health coverage, but those with 25 or fewer full-time workers could be eligible for health care tax credits if they do. An Internal Revenue Service Web page has information to help small businesses understand what tax credits are available.

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers that have 50 or more full-time workers are required to offer health coverage. However, implementation of that rule, known as the “employer mandate,” has been delayed until January 2015.

More information on the SHOP Marketplaces is available by phone at 800-706-7893 or on the Small Business Administration’s sba.gov/healthcare Web page.

In a statement, the National Retail Federation said it plans to continue “constructive dialogue” over the Affordable Care Act. But it would like the health care law’s threshold  for mandatory coverage to be changed to businesses 100 full-time workers and for “full-time” to be defined as working 40 hours or more a week.

For more information, read Everything Jewelers Need to Know About How Obamacare Will Affect Their Businesses, which originally appeared in June JCK.

JCK News Director