The Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, headquartered in Little Rock, operates the state-based health insurance exchange in accordance with both state and federal law. On November 1, the state marketplace opened the Small Business Health Options Program, SHOP for short.
Alicia McCoy, the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace explained that businesses with between two and 50 employees were qualified to enroll. The employees must be full-time and work more than 30 hours per week. There is an on-line portal at myARinsurance.com for businesses and individuals who want to learn more about qualifications and potential tax credits.
"If they have two to 24 employees and they are eligible up to 50 percent of what the employer contributes to the employees' healthcare," said McCoy.
Bruce Donaldson, outreach manager for Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace has been busy this year training nearly one hundred insurance brokers and agents. He’s also traveled the state talking to small business owners. Donaldson shared the reasons a majority of small business don't offer group health insurance.
“One, they couldn’t afford it," he said. "The poor can't afford these premiums. Or, two, you were uninsurable. You couldn’t pass the test to get health insurance plan even if you could afford it.”
Like all Affordable Care Act coverage, employee group plans have no yearly or lifetime limits on care, and no denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 65 thousand Arkansas residents signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act in 2015. In addition, 220,000 low income Arkansans enrolled in the Private Option, Arkansas' novel Medicaid expansion. As a result, Arkansas saw the steepest decline in uninsured in the nation.
In 2015, several hundred Arkansans workers enrolled in federal ACA small business SHOP. Those workers are transferring to the state SHOP for coverage in 2016. The Affordable Care Act “Employer Mandate,” stipulates businesses with 50-100 employees will have to insure eligible full time workers starting next year or face penalties. The mandate however, does not apply to employers with 49 workers or less.
Alicia McCoy, said enrollment for coverage starting January 1 will close on December 15, however AR SHOP is open year round and businesses can enroll at any time. More information about the ACA employer mandate is available on line on obamacarefacts.com.