Health Law Presents New Challenge For Small Businesses

Large numbers of small entrepreneurs have not yet focused on the law, and their responses for employee coverage are expected to vary. Meanwhile, news outlets examine some of the issues around paying premiums and other insurance issues.

USA Today: Entrepreneur Worry: ACA Really 'Affordable'?
Many small businesses remain in the dark about how the ACA affects them, however. When asked this year if their insurers had changed their small business' benefit package because of the law, 22 percent of 604 companies queried said they hadn't, and 34 percent said they didn't know, according to a report from the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago. They aren't likely to miss the big changes coming next year for ACA-compliant plans. What will be different next month: Insurers will be prohibited from refusing to cover people with pre-existing conditions, charging them more or delaying their coverage. Plans will also be required to cover certain "essential health benefits" and fully cover preventive care (O'Donnell, 12/12).

The New York Times: Dropping Health Plans, To Pick Better Coverage
For nearly 20 years, Keith Perkins offered health insurance to employees of his small electrical contracting company in Greencastle, Pa., and footed most of the bill. This year, with the arrival of the Affordable Care Act's insurance marketplace, he decided to stop. Mr. Perkins, who is 54, did the math and calculated that most of his employees, who are spread across Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, would come out ahead if he dropped his group policy and let them buy insurance individually through the new federal and state exchanges (Cowley, 12/11). 

Reuters: For Some Obamacare Shoppers, A Brief Grace Period On Premiums
As a deadline approaches for people to sign up for medical insurance under President Barack Obama's health care law, some insurers and state-run online marketplaces are giving shoppers an extra week to pay their first premiums. The shift to early January from the end of December provides a short grace period for insurers and shoppers to work through any errors in the new policies caused by technology problems dogging enrollment since it opened on October 1 (Humer and Krauskopf, 12/12).

ProPublica: Payment Due: The Obamacare Deadline No One Is Talking About
But amid the rush to enroll as many people as possible by the Dec. 23 deadline, there's a huge caveat that isn't getting much public attention: For coverage to take effect on Jan. 1, enrollees must pay their first month's premium on time. (The deadline varies somewhat by state and by insurer.) That's slow going, according to consultants and some insurers, raising the prospect that actual enrollment will be far lower than the figures HHS is releasing (Ornstein, 12/11).

The Fiscal Times: The Many Disrupted Lives Under Obamacare
Deb McEneaney of Sag Harbor, N.Y., was jolted in November when her insurance company notified her that it was canceling a group health plan that had been tailor made for her and her husband and their family-run business. Her insurance broker assured her she had nothing to worry about when the administration began the formal rollout of Obamacare on Oct.1. But the insurance company, United Healthcare Oxford, subsequently wrote her saying that it would no longer allow group health plans for two people who were related because of new restrictions under the Affordable Care Act (Pianin and Ehley, 12/12).

Marketplace: With Healthcare.Gov, Phones Finally Begin Ringing At Small Insurers
[Howard] Kahn used a single word to describe what it was like in the call center when the health exchange opened: Quiet. The 20,000 new customers Kahn was hoping for in the first month did not materialize. L.A. Care has signed up just over 1,000 members. ... But business has improved steadily (Weinberg, 12/11).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.