The opportunity to buy healthcare during Open Enrollment through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been credited as one of the engines behind the recent rise in entrepreneurship. Fortune cited a Thumbtack survey that found that one-third of the 5,400 small businesses polled decided to start their businesses because of their confidence in obtaining healthcare and offering it to their employees. In addition, a U.S. Department of Treasury study found that 11% of gig economy workers purchase their healthcare through the ACA.
But the recent changes implemented to the ACA by the Trump administration could affect the current healthcare plans that many entrepreneurs and small business owners have bought for themselves and their employees. That’s why we’re teaming up with Care.com, DoorDash, Etsy, Postmates, and Stride Health to create Tech United for Independent Access to Healthcare, a coordinated effort containing the most relevant information regarding the 2017 Open Enrollment period for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small businesses.
Our friends at Stride helped us put together a list of the most important things to remember when re-enrolling or purchasing a new plan:
The enrollment period has been shortened.
Enrollment now begins on November 1 and ends on December 15. But Connecticut, Rhode Island, Colorado, Minnesota, Washington, Massachusetts, California, New York, and Washington D.C. all have extended deadlines. Furthermore, anyone who qualifies for Medicaid can continue to sign up at any point during the year.
Sign-up and re-enrollment are still possible through Healthcare.gov.
Keep in mind, however, that the current administration has made budget changes that may affect your experiences on Healthcare.gov. Expect to see less advertising and promotion for plans. In addition, a reduction in personnel who can help with enrollment may make navigating the site more difficult.
Consider shopping around for a new plan.
It may benefit small business owners and entrepreneurs to shop for new plans as insurers have increased prices in unpredictable ways. Some premiums have increased dramatically, and it’s now possible, for example, that some “gold” plans might be less expensive than “silver” ones. If you don’t qualify for federal subsidies, you will almost certainly bear the burden of any cost increases to your plan. But if you do qualify for government subsidies – as most people who buy insurance through Healthcare.gov do – you’ll most likely be protected from higher prices.
Make sure that your most important doctors remain in-network.
The best healthcare plan is one that will cover your most important services. Make a list of your most important providers, and then call their offices to verify that they’ll continue providing coverage under your current plan, or the one you’ll switch to in 2018. And, as you would any year, consider whether you’re better off with a plan that has a lower premium and higher deductible, or the reverse, if you make frequent visits to your doctors.
Determine whether you need to pay for your employees’ health insurance.
Small business owners with fewer than 50 full-time or full-time-equivalent employees do not need to offer health insurance but may benefit by doing so. Through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), you’ll be able to qualify for substantial tax credits. The amount of credit you’ll receive depends on such factors as the number of full-time employees and your contributions to their insurance premiums, but you can use the SHOP Tax Credit Estimator to get a quote. Remember to check the Healthcare.gov site to review other ways the Affordable Care Act affects small businesses.
The Affordable Care Act remains the law in the United States. Whether you’re re-enrolling in your plan, purchasing a new one, or taking on the responsibility of giving health insurance to your employees as well, healthcare coverage is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a small business owner or entrepreneur. While you might not like paying monthly premiums now, they’ll help with future medical bills. Besides, good health insurance will give you peace of mind and let you focus on the more exciting aspects of entrepreneurship.
Are you a small business owner or entrepreneur who has purchased a plan through the marketplace or enrolled in SHOP? How has your experience been? Tell us in the comments below!