Kaiser plans chosen for county small businesses

All five eligible for tax credits

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

 

Clark County small-business owners will have their choice of a handful of employee health plans eligible for increased tax credits. But all of the plans come from the same insurer: Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest.

Clark County will still fare better on tax credits than nearly all other counties in the state, however, because Kaiser was the only insurer to apply to provide plans. The Kaiser plans will also be available in Cowlitz County.

The Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner announced Tuesday the approval of five Kaiser plans for sale through the Small Business Health Options Program. The program is designed to operate like the individual insurance exchange, where people will purchase insurance plans for themselves and their families.

SHOP provides small businesses — those with fewer than 50 employees — with a bigger tax credit if they purchase insurance for their employees through the exchange.

Currently, the Affordable Care Act gives small businesses a 35 percent tax credit for providing health insurance. If businesses purchase coverage offered in the SHOP exchange, the tax credit goes up to 50 percent.

The approved plans include one gold-level plan, in which the insurer covers 80 percent of costs; three silver plans, with the insurer covering 70 percent of costs; and one bronze plan, with the insurer paying 60 percent of costs.

For a 40-year-old individual, Kaiser's monthly premiums to the employer for the first quarter of 2014 range from $313 to $430 in Clark County. That rate does not reflect what portion, if any, the employer elects to pay.

The rates increase each of the subsequent quarters, according to the rate plan provided by the insurance commissioner's office.

Deductibles and copays vary depending on the plan.

The Kaiser gold plan, for example, has the highest monthly premium but has

no deductible and a $30 copay for office visits. The bronze plan, which includes pediatric dental, has the lowest monthly premium. The deductible for that plan is $3,500 and office visits will cost $50.

Since Kaiser was the only insurer to apply to provide plans through the SHOP exchange, small businesses in other counties will not have the option of the larger tax credit. Instead, they'll have to purchase insurance plans through the regular market.

Kaiser will offer four additional plans outside of the exchange in Clark and Cowlitz counties.

SHOP open enrollment begins Oct. 1. Coverage begins Jan. 1.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.