Even though 2014 has already begun, it’s not too late for Colorado small businesses to take advantage of the state’s health insurance marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado. Full implementation of healthcare reform began Jan. 1, but the state’s small business health insurance marketplace, also known as SHOP, offers open enrollment year-round.
To take advantage of this new option, Colorado entrepreneurs need to be informed about what the marketplace can do for their business. Here are some key facts about Colorado’s SHOP to help get small business owners up to speed.
The new health insurance marketplace is the most important component of the Affordable Care Act for small businesses. SHOP allows Colorado small businesses with fewer than 50 employees to band together when buying coverage, giving them the kind of purchasing clout large businesses enjoy. It offers businesses more competitive choices, which can help lower premium costs, thus improving their bottom line.
What’s more, small employers that do offer coverage through the marketplace may also be eligible for a tax credit of up to 50 percent of their premiums. We know from our opinion polling that two-thirds of small business owners would use the marketplace or at least consider using it, compared to a mere 8 percent who say they would not.
Many individuals and small employers in Colorado have already signed up through the marketplace to have coverage starting the first of the year. Officials with Connect for Health Colorado recently reported that enrollment through the marketplace and expanded Medicaid programs totaled more than 138,000 people by Dec. 31, and 1,405 signed up through the small business marketplace.
Rebecca Askew, CEO of Circuit Media in Denver, is one employer who has taken advantage of the marketplace.
“I’ve always provided full health insurance coverage,” Askew said, “but the rising cost of health care has made it difficult to continue offering this benefit to my employees. We’ve had to switch carriers three times, and over the past several years our premiums have increased by at least 20 percent annually. Finally, our health care costs aren’t going up this year and my company is receiving a tax credit for enrolling through the marketplace.”
Again, it’s important to note that SHOP enables small employers to enroll in the marketplace at any time during the year. To begin the enrollment process, entrepreneurs should visit Connect for Health Colorado at connectforhealthco.com and begin filling out a paper application. Small business owners can also contact one of Small Business Majority’s certified Health Coverage Guides at healthcoverageguide.org/states/colorado/connect-for-health-colorado/enrolling-with-connect-for-health-colorado/, or a certified health insurance broker who can assist with the process.
Small business owners have been waiting for decades for something to help bring down healthcare costs, and the insurance marketplaces have the ability to do that. But with full implementation of the health care law now in effect, it’s important small businesses get all the information they can so they can take advantage of this new option. To learn more about SHOP, enrollment dates and coverage plans, visit our Colorado Health Coverage Guide at healthcoverageguide.org/states/colorado/, with information for small business owners on enrollment, the Affordable Care Act and the health care system in general.
The Colorado Health Coverage Guide details who’s eligible for coverage, how to choose a health plan, how to enroll your business and employees, and what the marketplace provides. In addition, the guide provides contact information for Small Business Majority’s small business health insurance experts if entrepreneurs have questions that aren’t addressed on the website.
The more small business owners know about Colorado’s new marketplace, the easier it will be for them to get their employees and themselves enrolled and on their way to more affordable insurance coverage. And then, instead of worrying about health insurance, they can do what they do best: run the companies that make up the backbone of our state and our nation.
To get the full, comprehensive list of Small Business Majority’s educational events in Colorado regarding the healthcare law, please visit our Colorado outreach calendar at smallbusinessmajority.org/state-activity/colorado-state-activity/index.php.
Tim Gaudette is the Colorado outreach manager for the Small Business Majority.