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Navigating Obamacare without a Compass.

By now you've undoubtedly heard many sound bites about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare. Some of these are correct and some are slanted towards one political pole or another. Below are the five key impacts that WAHA would recommend business owners know going forward:

1. For all employers the nature of health insurance policies will be changing. The law has attempted to steer the market away from a number of coverage provisions that used to be routine policies. Examples include dollar caps on annual coverage and pre-existing condition clauses.

2. Large employers (over 50 employees) may be subject to penalties starting in 2015 if they do not offer qualifying coverage that contains a standardized list of essential benefits.

3. While it will continue to be possible to buy your employee's health insurance the old-fashioned way, a new vehicle called "health insurance exchanges" will also be available to you. These exchanges, like online "big box" stores, will allow you to more quickly compare a wider variety of insurance products. In addition to the government-run exchange in Washington (wahealthplanfinder.org), private exchanges are also springing up--evidence that the distribution model for health insurance products is beginning to modernize.

4. As an inducement to get more people covered, many employers who don't currently offer coverage can receive subsidies (also called tax credits) when offering coverage on the exchange.

5. For all employer-offered coverage, as well as individual coverage, in 2014 there will be standards affecting all health insurance policy cost sharing provisions. These provisions limit consumer out-of-pocket costs. Additionally, each policy must contain 10 "essential health benefits", such as mental health treatment or maternity care.

Will these changes raise your costs? Answer: it depends on your individual circumstances. For some, effective total cost will be lower. For others, it will be higher.

To gain a better understanding of your unique situation, WAHA recommends that you consult with a trained insurance broker or an impartial in-person assister. * Brokers and as sisters review hundreds of cases and can quickly size up your individual situation. In the best of circumstances, health insurance is a confusing product to buy. As this market undergoes its biggest change in at least 50 years, it won't get easier to make decisions until this changing market stabilizes. The good news is that dozens of local brokers have been trained on these new realities. Add to that the available in-person-assister organizations like WAHA and you'll never ever have to learn what a "bronze plan" is unless you want to.

* For a list of brokers and in-person assister organizations in Whatcom County go to whatcomalliance.org.

About Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement (WAHA), whatcomalliance.org

Improving Lives, Transforming Care

WAHA is a nonprofit organization with a mission that includes connecting people to health care and transforming our current health care system into one that honors and serves the entire community.

To receive notifications on enrollment or educational opportunities: please sign up for WAHA's e-newsletter, http://whatcomalliance.org/ newsletter-signup/ Or like us on facebook, www.facebook.com/whatcomalliance.

WHAT ARE MEMBERS SAYING ABOUT THE BELLINGHAM/WHATCOM CHAMBER?

"There is no better place than the Chamber to meet today's business leaders here in Whatcom County.

The more you are involved with the Chamber, the more you will see the benefits the Chamber provides."

Scott Richardson

President State Street Insurance

Allstate on State Street

2009 Chamber Board Chairman

by Larry Thompson, Executive Director at Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement (WAHA)

Larry Thompson Executive Director, WAHA Larry is a graduate of Johns Hopkins and the University of Oregon. His more than thirty year career has seen him touch in one way or another nearly every sector of the health and medical care world. Holding leadership and management roles in the public and private sectors, he has worked in public policy, in managing mainstream provider groups, in research and teaching, and in the health/insurance sector.
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Author:Thompson, Larry
Publication:BBJToday
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2013
Words:650
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