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Health care law affects self-employed

Many provisions of the Affordable Care Act affect small businesses differently depending on their size. For self-employed individuals in particular, there are new options for health coverage and other changes under the federal health care reform law that will directly affect you in the coming months

Under the Affordable Care Act, self-employed business owners now have more options than ever to find affordable health coverage. Beginning in January, self-employed individuals and other consumers will be able to purchase insurance through new health insurance marketplaces also known as exchanges.

Health insurance plans offered through these exchanges will offer a core package of benefits known as “essential health benefits.” The plans will vary according to the percentage of costs the plan covers — 60 percent for a bronze plan, 70 percent for a silver plan, 80 percent for a gold plan and 90 percent coverage for a platinum plan. Issuers may offer catastrophic-only coverage that includes free prevention and several primary care visits to young adults, among others.

Self-employed individuals could qualify for premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions on a sliding scale based on income to purchase coverage in the exchanges. Increased access to quality, affordable health care will make it easier for potential entrepreneurs to go out on their own instead of staying at larger firms simply because of “job lock” or lack of access to affordable insurance outside of work.

For more information on individual tax credits offered through exchanges and to stay connected with the latest information, visit www.healthcare.gov.

To find an insurance plan that meets your needs today, check out the Department of Health and Human Services insurance finder tool. By answering just a few simple questions, you’ll be able to locate health insurance plans and explore whether there are facilities in your area that provide free or reduced-cost health care services. 

The individual shared responsibility provisions of the Affordable Care Act call for each individual, beginning in 2014, to have: minimum essential coverage for each month, qualify for an exemption or make an individual shared responsibility payment when filing a federal income tax return starting in 2015.

Minimum essential coverage includes employer-sponsored coverage, coverage purchased in the individual market, Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage, veteran’s health coverage, TRICARE and others as identified by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Individuals will not have to make a payment under the individual shared responsibility provisions if: coverage is unaffordable, they spend less than three consecutive months without coverage or they qualify for an exemption for several other reasons, including hardship and religious beliefs.

To learn what individual shared responsibility requirements and exemptions could apply to you, refer to a fact sheet available from the Department of Treasury, information from the Internal Revenue Service or consult with your tax professional.

For more information about other provisions affecting self-employed business owners under the Affordable Care Act, log on to www.sba.gov/healthcare.

Meredith Olafson serves as a senior policy analyst with the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Entrepreneurial Development. She works on special initiatives involving regional economic development and entrepreneurship. For more information about SBA programs and services, log on to www.sba.gov.
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