In the final part of our series on insurance exchanges, YNN's Katie Gibas outlines what business owners need to know as the new changes to healthcare are now in place.
NEW YORK STATE -- If you thought health insurance was confusing to sign up as an individual, just imagine how complicated the process is for business owners. However, business owners are not required to make any changes this year.
"The small employer can stay right where they are today in terms of how they buy health insurance. If they want to try something different, they can certainly go to the New York State marketplace, the New York State of Health, and they can look into buying a product that way. But they can do it exactly as they do it today," explained Todd Muscatello, the Excellus BCBS Sales Vice President.
Starting in 2015, employers with more than 50 workers will have to pay a hefty penalty if they don't offer insurance, or if their employees get insurance from the exchange. It's $2,000 per employee if they don't offer insurance. The penalty if their employees go to the exchange to get their insurance, and qualify for a subsidy, is $3,000 per person.
For businesses with 50 or fewer employees, there is no penalty for not offering insurance.
"One of the chief concerns of small businesses is that they can't offer health insurance, but they would like to offer health insurance. And the reason they haven't been able to is that it's been unaffordable and hasn't been easily accessibly for a small business," said Cathy Pokines, a Deputy District Director for the Small Business Administration.
Under the Affordable Care Act, there are incentives to help businesses. A portion of what the employer pays for health care is tax deductible. For those with 25 or fewer employees, there are tax credits too. Those tax credits are only available if you buy your company's insurance through the exchange.
"The tax credits this year, and last year, they've already missed it if they haven't done it are up to 35 percent. And they're for businesses that have low to moderate salaries that average out to be $50,000 or less. Now, next year, those tax credits will go up to 50 percent," said Pokines.
If you're a small business owner and you decide to offer your employees health insurance, you have a few options. First you can choose just one plan employees can enroll in. Second, you could choose a variety of options to offer and employees can choose what best works for them. Third, you can allow your employees to choose any plan they'd like and you'll give a certain dollar amount towards that plan.
"You're comparing apples to apples and there's quite a variety of plans on the New York State marketplace," noted Pokines.
However, if you don't know the best option for your business, there is plenty of support through the exchanges with phone support, online support and in-person community experts.
Also, organizations such as the Small Business Association are hosting webinars, seminars and have a variety of experts on hand to help.
"We have small business councilors that have been trained in all the details of the Affordable Care Act. And they are also available to help people walk through the marketplace and what they need to know," said Pokines.
Small business owners can either enroll online through the New York State of Health website or work with a consultant or their accountant.
To get a tax credit this year, businesses have to go to their tax preparer to get tax credits.
Next year they will have to do it through the New York State of Health website.
For a more in-depth discussion of the New York State of Health exchange tune to Local on Demand for YNN Health Reporter Marcie Fraser's extended interview.
New York State of Health:
National Health Exchange:
Small Business Administration: