Posted: Oct 1, 2013 9:51 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - Montanans have a choice about where to buy health insurance as the Affordable Care Act became law early Tuesday morning.
Reporter Marnee Banks took a look at what small businesses need to know now that the insurance exchanges are open for business.
Montana business owners have some tough decisions to make - as they can now buy health insurance for their employees on the health insurance exchange. It's an online marketplace where customers can compare policies.
"Take your time, I mean the exchanges open up on October first. But really, take your time to go out and understand what is offered through the exchange. Understand the products, understand the pricing," advised Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana CEO Mike Frank.
The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, states that small businesses with less than 50 employees do not have to provide health insurance. However, businesses with more than 50 employees must provide coverage - and starting in 2015, those employers will have to pay a penalty if they don't.
"There is a requirement for all employers - whether you have insurance or do not have insurance - to inform their employees about the exchange," explained Montana Chamber of Commerce President Webb Brown.
Because for some employees it could be cheaper for them to drop their employer-sponsored health insurance and purchase their own policies on the exchange. That's because the federal government is offering to help some individuals pay for their plans if they fall below 400% of poverty.
"It turns out that overall many of the rates are slightly lower but that doesn't mean that all rates are lower," Montana Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen said.
The industry experts say every business is different and will have to evaluate whether or not shopping on the exchange is the best deal for them and their employees.
Businesses and individuals can now start buying policies on the exchange, and have until Dec. 15 to make the purchase if they want coverage to begin on January 1.