Health Care News for Employers & Marylanders

As reported in the Washington Post, some business groups applauded the federal government’s decision to delay implementation of the requirement that employers of businesses offer health insurance.

In the months before the administration’s decision, companies have said they would stop hiring or cut some workers’ hours to part time to avoid the law’s bureaucratic burdens. Others anticipated spending more to keep up with the law’s reporting requirements and to beef up their health insurance offerings.

In Maryland, about 10,000 Maryland residents will be affected by the federal government’s decision to delay by a year new rules that require employers to offer health insurance, as reported in the Baltimore Business Journal.  According to the Journal, however, half of those persons will likely seek insurance from the state’s individual health exchange.

About 5,000 people who would have been able to get insurance through their employer beginning in January, when the so-called employer mandate was supposed to take effect, will likely turn instead to the state’s individual health exchange, according to the Governor’s Office of Health Care Reform. An additional 5,000 people will be uninsured as a result of the White House decision July 2 that would push back until January 2015 the key provision of the federal Affordable Care Act that requires companies with at least 50 employees to offer affordable health insurance or pay a penalty.

Despite the delay in the requirements for employers, the state’s individual health exchange, Maryland Health Connection,  is scheduled to open on time, in October 2013. According to the Maryland Office of Health Care Reform,

Beginning in October 2013, Marylanders will be able to compare health insurance plans through an online Health Benefit Exchange known as the Maryland Health Connection. The exchange will allow individuals and small business owners to compare and purchase affordable health plans or find out if they are eligible for Medical Assistance. Marylanders who cannot afford health insurance may qualify for tax credits or subsidies to help pay for the cost of their plan.

Small business owners can also get tax credits to help offset the cost of providing coverage for their employees. Tax credits are currently available for Maryland small businesses that provide health insurance for their workers, have less than 25 full-time employees and pay an average annual salary below $50,000. Today’s small business tax credit covers up to 35% of the employer’s contribution. In 2014, tax credits for small businesses will increase to cover up to 50% of the employer’s contribution.

All health plans offered on the Exchange will cover essential health benefits such as preventive and wellness services, chronic disease management, rehabilitative services, emergency services, hospitalizations, maternity and newborn care, pediatric services, and more.

For more information, see the full story from the Baltimore Business Journal, the full story from the Washington Post, or Maryland’s health exchange website, Maryland Health Connection.