Small business exchange spurs interest

news_djournal_greenBy Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Mississippi’s small business health insurance marketplace is up and rolling.

Already 226 employers have shown an interest in the One, Mississippi exchange, and 90 have completed applications, Bob Williams of the Mississippi Insurance Department told nearly 200 attendees at the annual Health Link Managed Care Conference Tuesday.

Around the state, 92 agents and brokers have been certified to assist small businesses with the exchange, Williams said.

The private, competitive health insurance marketplace is for Mississippi businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

“Enrollment began in May, and we went live July 1,” Williams said.

The exchange for small businesses – which is operated separately from the healthcare.gov marketplace where individuals can purchase insurance – currently has 11 plans available from United Healthcare. Like healthcare.gov, the plans are separated into bronze, silver, gold and platinum based on the percentage of health care costs the premiums are set to cover – between 60 and 90 percent.

“We hope to have more insurers as we go forward,” Williams said.

Employers who choose to participate set how much they will contribute to insurance premiums and choose a band of coverage. Within the bronze, silver and gold bands, employees have three to four choices with variations in co-pays and deductibles, Williams said.

Some of the benefits to employers include reduced administrative costs and tasks and access to federal tax credits for businesses that qualify. There’s no minimum participation rate, another bonus for small business owners, Williams said.

“For really small employers, it can be such an administrative burden,” Williams said. “It’s meant to simplify the process” whether the employer uses an agent or tools on the onemississippi.com website.

Employers with less than 50 employees are not subject to penalties for failing to offer health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but many see it as a necessary benefit to attract and retain a quality workforce.

michaela.morris@journalinc.com