RENO — Business and Industry Director Bruce Breslow asked an audience of about 300 at the Grand Sierra Resort how many had known nothing about the Affordable Care Act when they walked into the room.
More than half the attendees’ hands went up.
Small-business operators crowded a meeting room at the Reno resort Wednesday during the Governor’s Conference on Small Business for a primer on how the ACA, informally known as Obamacare, will affect them.
The ACA takes effect Oct. 1, and uninsured people and larger businesses are instructed to get coverage by the end of the year. Small businesses with fewer than 25 full-time employees can opt out; those that want to provide coverage can do so. In many cases, they get a tax credit for offering coverage, said Health Insurance Exchange director Jon Hager.
Hager told attendees their first stop is NevadaHealthLink.com.
He cautioned the business operators to “not let yourself be pressured into rolling over your plan today.” He advised them to wait until after Oct. 1, when all providers’ rates will be available.
Hager was asked what happens if a business doesn’t think it can afford to offer health care. That’s an individual business decision, he replied.
“Any business should explore all your options,” he said. “There is no mandate today to supply health care to your employees.”
Many businesses do offer health benefits as a tool to attract and keep good employees, Hager said.
Insurance Commissioner Scott Kipper said there definitely be an increase in the number of people who buy health insurance. He said costs could rise a bit because people can’t be denied for pre-existing conditions or poor health. Kipper added that should be largely offset by the “young invincibles” — healthy 20-somethings who also are required to buy insurance but won’t typically need the benefits and, therefore, just mean more profit for insurance companies.
Kipper and Hager said the approved insurance rates are supposed to be posted at the exchange website 30 days before the law takes effect. That means this weekend.
Hager said his staff will be available to help people and business operators through the process of choosing benefits that best serve each customer’s needs.
For small businesses that provide benefits, Hager said, the federal law provides a direct tax credit that totals 50 percent of the cost in 2014. For people buying a policy on their own, he said, significant subsidies are available through the federal government.