Affordable Care Act

In this March 23, 2010 file photo, President Barack Obama signs the Affordable Care Act in the East Room of the White House in Washington. If Obama's health care law survives Supreme Court scrutiny, it will be nearly a decade before all its major pieces are in place. The law's carefully orchestrated phase-in is evidence of what's at stake in the Supreme Court deliberations that start March 26, 2012. With Obama are Marcelas Owens of Seattle, left, and Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., right; from top left are Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa., Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Ill., Vice President Joe Biden, Vicki Kennedy, widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., Ryan Smith of Turlock, Calif., Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Md., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., House Majority Whip James Clyburn of S.C., and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

There has been an enormous amount of conversation about the federal Affordable Care Act since its passage three years ago, and sadly there has been a great deal of misinformation conveyed.

Some of the problem exists in that much of the actual implementation is still under development, and some has occurred because it has been caught up in the broader philosophical discussions of the role of government and our fiscal health. But there are five key elements all small businesses should know about the federal program:

1. Insurance companies are being held more accountable. If insurance companies don’t spend at least 80 percent of your premium dollar on medical care rather than administration, they will have to provide you a rebate. The first rebates were made in the summer of 2012 and will continue to keep the focus of insurance premiums on actual health care.

2. Insurance companies will also be held accountable for large rate increases. Insurance companies are now required to publicly justify their expenses if they want to raise rates by more than 10 percent.

3. You can offer insurance to employees for less. If you have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees, you may qualify for a small business tax credit of up to 35 percent of your premium costs (up to 25 percent for nonprofits) to offset the cost of your insurance. Additional tax credits will be available in the future.

4. You are not all required to provide insurance for your employees. Employers with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees are exempt from all new employer responsibility policies.

5. More Insurance Choices — Under the law no American will have to worry about losing coverage if they lose or change their job. Starting in January 2014, businesses with 100 or fewer employees will be able to find coverage in federal Affordable Insurance Exchange. This exchange will reduce the burden and costs of enrolling your employees, and give you many of the cost advantages and choices enjoyed by large businesses today. The Exchange will do the work for you of finding qualified health plans, getting information on their price and benefits, enrolling your employees, and consolidating billing. And you will have the same kinds of benefit choices as members of Congress.

There is still a lot to learn about the health insurance process as we move closer to the 2014 implementation time frame.

I encourage you to ask good questions and keep searching for the answers. One resource is for more information.

• Peter Menor is vice president of operations for Chandler Regional Medical Center and chairperson of the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber Board of Directors.

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