Healthcare.gov Reopens with Fewer Glitches, Faster Insurance Sign-up
Thursday, November 20, 2014 8:08 AM
Shopping for health insurance on the online Health Insurance Marketplace, which opened on November 15, is faster and easier for most people than it was last time around, according to Kaiser Health News. The revamped federal website, healthcare.gov, was able to handle steady traffic without many problems over the weekend, according to Kaiser.
Small Business Health Insurance Now Available on Healthcare.gov—
Starting November 15, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees have the option of signing up for employee health insurance for 2015 through the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, on healthcare.gov.
They are not required to do so under the new health law, and no penalty is applied if they don't. Small businesses are also able to enroll year-round.
On the SHOP portal on healthcare.gov, businesses choose a plan or plans, set the limit on how much of the benefit is paid by the employer, and can manage employee participation and pay employer premiums once they are enrolled. Employees can sign up on the SHOP plan chosen by their employer directly on healthcare.gov.
Employers can also choose to offer employee dental coverage through the Marketplace.
Businesses with 25 or fewer employees may be eligible for up to a 50-percent discount on the cost of insurance through SHOP, but they must buy health insurance through the online Marketplace to be eligible for the discount. Small, family-run businesses are typically not eligible for SHOP.
Guidelines on how to enroll in SHOP are available at healthcare.gov on the Small Business tab at the top of the home page.
There are more plans available for 2015 than there were for 2014, making it worthwhile for those who enrolled last year to go online and take another look. Those who don't decide to price-shop will be reenrolled in the same plan, if they selected automatic reenrollment when they signed up for 2014.
However, the open enrollment period is shorter this time around: it ends February 15, 2015 - and those who want coverage to begin January1, 2015, must sign up by December 15, 2014.
And those who don't sign up, or who do not get health insurance from their employer or a federal plan like Medicaid, will face stiffer fines in 2015.
The minimum penalty (paid when filing federal income taxes) for not having health insurance will be $325 per person or $975 for a family, or 2 percent of family income, whichever is higher.
During the roll-out of the Marketplace that ended last March, around 45,000 Mainers bought health insurance from Anthem or Maine Community Health Options. This year, Harvard Pilgrim insurance plans are also available.
Each insurer offers several plans, with variable deductibles and office visit co-payments, and different monthly rates. All three insurers must provide a basic minimum standard of health insurance coverage, by law.
Some who sign up will be eligible for reduced-cost health insurance. Mainers earning more than $11,670 a year as a single person or $23,850 for a family of four may qualify for premium tax credits and other savings based on household size and income. Location also factors in to the cost (it's more expensive in more rural areas), as do age and smoking, but pre-existing conditions do not.
Some examples of the cost of health insurance for midcoast residents include:
• A 25-year-old non-smoker making $25,000 a year has 27 plans to choose from in Maine, with monthly premiums ranging from $90 to $272 a month, with variable co-payments and deductibles. The monthly premiums include $100 subsidy.
• Two 25-year-old parents, both non-smokers, with two children under the age of 10, bringing home $36,000 a year, combined, would pay from $11 to $400 a month for both parents, with the children likely eligible for federal CHIP health insurance. The monthly premiums include an estimated $413 a month subsidy.
However, in a loophole that came about as a result of state challenges to the health care law, Maine opted out of expanding Medicaid to cover extremely low income adults, leaving them unable to get a subsidy for health insurance through the Marketplace. As such, they are exempt from any fines or penalties for not having health insurance coverage.
They may be eligible for Medicaid, which can be determined after signing up on the healthcare.gov website.