The 2010 health care reform law, which threw a curveball at small and large business owners, is coming into focus. Answers are out there, if you know where to look.
Health insurers in Idaho are trying to make it easier for businesses to get answers. They're ramping up campaigns to make sure members - and prospective members - have updates in time to comply with the law, most of which takes effect Jan. 1.
Employers have until Oct. 1 to notify workers of their health insurance options, including whether workers are eligible to buy plans on the Idaho health insurance exchange. To prevent confusion, the U.S. Department of Labor has created forms - posted at www.dol.gov/ebsa/healthreform - with boxes employers can fill in to personalize their notice for each employee.
Some requirements are already in the rearview mirror, such as the 2012 rule for certain employers to report the value of health benefits on employee W-2 forms.
Insurers are hosting Q&A sessions and launching websites. The imminent universal-coverage requirement means now is the time for insurers to get their brand out front.
Regence BlueShield of Idahocreated HealthCareAndReform.com to help small and large employers, individuals, families and sellers of insurance plans.
SelectHealth,the new kid in Idaho health insurance, created www.selecthealth.org/reform and an online presentation for small businesses at portal.sliderocket.com/AICGB/TaxCredit2012. It will roll out a premium subsidy calculator for individuals this month. There's already a small-business tax credit calculator at selecthealth.org in the section for small employers.
PacificSource,the Oregon insurer with an Idaho presence, created healthcarelawguide.com with nitty-gritty information and videos and the "Million Ideas" blog at millionideas.org as a public forum and resource.
Blue Cross of Idahobought a software tool from the actuarial and consulting firm Milliman to help it help Blue Cross's employer members get ready. The tool may help prevent Blue Cross members from getting dinged by tax penalties.
"We have been able to gather a whole bunch of statistics on how household income works," says Robert Schmidt, an actuary at Milliman who is helping customize the tool to Idaho.
Some questions still perplex business executives. For example, the law requires a worker's premium to cost no more than 9.5 percent of household - not just the employee's - income. How's a business owner supposed to predict what his worker's whole family will earn next year? The latest tools from insurers can help even with that. Using the Milliman tool and employee data like age and marital status, Blue Cross may help an employer hit the target for "affordable" coverage.
The Milliman software is geared toward employers with fewer than 500 employees, and Blue Cross of Idaho is the first health insurer in the country to buy it, Schmidt says.
Audrey Dutton: 377-6448