Bar News - June 21, 2013
Heads-Up on Health Insurance
Sue Morand, licensed insurance broker for the NHBA Insurance Agency who serves Association members exclusively, has been monitoring developments in New Hampshire as implementation of the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act nears. Bar News recently asked her some key questions:
BN: What will be required, and when?
Morand: Starting on Jan. 1, 2014, everyone who can afford health insurance must buy it, unless they are covered in some other way – i.e., their employer or Medicaid. If you do not have coverage, you will be required to pay a tax penalty.
Companies or organizations with more than 50 employees (full-time equivalents) must pay a penalty, also, if they do not offer health insurance or if the insurance they offer is not considered affordable.
In addition to the mandates, there are certain protections and benefits that will become effective in 2014, including tax credits and premium subsidies for many people.
In New Hampshire, the aim is to cover an estimated 130,000 people currently without health insurance.
BN: How will the health insurance market be changing?
SM: There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work going on in New Hampshire to create, in partnership with the federal government, a Health Benefit Exchange, which is supposed to help consumers choose an insurance plan and apply for subsidies.
In New Hampshire, only one carrier is participating in the exchange, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. It will offer several plans with defined benefit levels and varying costs. There will be a number of resources available to assist consumers in choosing plans and applying for subsidies. Low-income people may qualify for Medicaid. If a single person earns more than $14,856 up to $30,686 annually, they will qualify for premium subsidies on a sliding scale. For covering a family of four, the income range for receiving subsidies ranges from $44,680 to $92,800 a year.
Individuals and employers also can obtain coverage from other carriers outside the exchange.
BN: How much will premiums cost?
SM: No one can apply for coverage regulated by the exchanges, or the subsidies, before Oct. 1, so the premium levels won’t likely be known much before then. The Affordable Care Act says that coverage is supposed to be obtained by Jan. 1, 2014, so there will be intense activity during that period.
BN: What if I don’t qualify as a large (more than 50) employer, but I do offer health insurance to my employees. Should I do anything?
SM: If your policy renews on Jan. 1, you might want to seek an extension for your policy now and postpone your renewal date by a few months – give the implementation of the ACA some time to get working.
BN: If I have a small firm and I don’t offer health insurance now, will the government force me to buy insurance for my employees?
SM: If you employ 50 or fewer people (full-time equivalents), you are not required to offer insurance. The Affordable Care Act does increase some incentives in the form of tax credits if you offer health coverage in 2014, but whether that’s worth your while depends on the cost of premiums, which won’t be known for a few months yet.
Editor’s note: Morand is taking a required 20-hour training course to be eligible to participate as a certified “Producer” (or broker) for the state-federal health exchange in New Hampshire. Through Bar News and other Association outlets, she will be providing updates about what members need to know. She can be reached at 866-642-2292 or firstname.lastname@example.org.