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Will businesses offer extremely low-cost health insurance to workers?

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Glenn Tobleman
Uninsurance rate continues to decline nationwide
Uninsurance rate continues to decline nationwide

The Affordable Care Act requires companies with 50 or more employees to offer coverage to those working at least 30 hours per week beginning January 1, 2014 or face a penalty. But many businesses may be looking for ways to minimize the cost of compliance.

A number of employers may soon start offering their workers health insurance plans that allow them to meet the ACA's coverage rules while projecting very low costs. These plans would cost potentially between $40 and $100 per employee per month, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). However, the problem with this approach for workers is that these plans may not cover all of the medical costs employees typically face. For instance, the restaurant chain El Fenix says it plans to offer coverage that helps pay for workers' preventative care - including routine doctors' visits and prescription medication costs - but not cover surgery or hospital stays.

Such a plan that provides bare minimum coverage could leave workers facing significant health costs. For many businesses, however, the high costs for providing all of their workers with comprehensive health coverage could eat into profits, the WSJ report said. Many experts have projected that the cost of insuring even one worker with full benefits under current pricing structures could exceed several thousand dollars per year, compared with a $2,000 fine for each employee not covered (with certain exceptions). By providing a plan that costs $100 per month, an employer can gain significant savings versus paying the fines over the course of a year.

It is vital that business owners and executives take the time to evaluate all the options they might have to provide health insurance coverage that complies with the Affordable Care Act while also giving workers the access to care they may need. Balancing costs with reasonable options for employees will be vital to maintaining acceptable profit margins and also keeping worker satisfaction as high as possible once the new law goes into effect.

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