While most large employers don’t intend to change their health-insurance plans with the opening of the health-benefits exchange Oct. 1, small businesses struggling with the affordability are trying to understand what their options will be on the new exchange.
They’ll get answers at the PBN Summit on the Health Benefits Exchange on Sept. 25. Panelists include Christine Ferguson, HealthSourceRI director; Patrick Canavan, USI Insurance senior vice president; Peter Andruszkiewicz, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island president and CEO; Kathleen Hittner, Rhode Island health-insurance commissioner; and Philip Papoojian, president and chief operating officer of Mereco Technologies Group and chairman of the Smaller Business Association of New England.
Papoojian’s biggest concerns are premium costs and employee literacy about health insurance, which he called “abysmal.” He said there would have to be a “very, very compelling financial case” for him to switch his 32 employees’ current plan.
“We always put the employee ahead,” he said, explaining that he wouldn’t want to add to their financial burdens or responsibilities by asking them to choose their own plans.
Papoojian and other small-business owners have a couple of options. They can keep their current commercial group plans, they can switch to one of the 16 plans that will be sold on the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), or they can drop coverage all together and send their employees to the exchange to purchase individual plans.
Brokers will continue to help their clients determine what’s most affordable and best for their employees, Canavan said. They will continue to be paid by carriers at current rates no matter if their clients choose to stay off or go onto the exchange. HealthSourceRI will not be providing brokers with additional compensation for bringing customers to the exchange, but it will provide them with support, Ferguson said.
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