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Quickly Find the Right Plan with CaliforniaChoice Resources

CaliforniaChoice offers employers and their employees access to dozens of Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum tier health plans from the state’s leading insurers. To help members (and prospective members) compare plans, so they can easily match their health care needs to the right plan, network, and metal tier, CaliforniaChoice offers two valuable tools.

The new Carrier Plan Design and Network Availability summary gives readers a snapshot of:

Get the Carrier Cheat Sheet here.

It’s easy to see how all of the available CaliforniaChoice options available across the state break down by preferred provider organization (PPO), exclusive provider organization (EPO), health maintenance organization (HMO), health care services plan (HSP), Affordable Care Act metal tier, and carrier.

Another useful tool available from CaliforniaChoice is the Automated Choice Profiler, which can be accessed through the CaliforniaChoice website. This useful online resource gives prospective and current members the ability to analyze premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance.  Users can view side-by-side plan comparisons based on cost, 5-Star quality ratings, and feedback from health plan members. The Automated Choice Profiler can help consumers get an estimated total cost of coverage that reflects ongoing, potential, or planned health care needs. It makes it easy to quickly evaluate all of your available plan options from CaliforniaChoice.

To learn more about the CaliforniaChoice Carrier Plan Design and Network Availability summary or Automated Choice Profiler, contact your employee benefits broker. If you don’t already have a broker, we’ll help you find a local CaliforniaChoice broker to speak with about your group’s health insurance needs.

CHOICE Administrators CEO Featured in TIME Magazine 

Ron Goldstein, president and chief executive officer of CHOICE Administrators, the parent organization of the CaliforniaChoice private health exchange, was recently featured in an article published in the Money section of TIME magazine. Goldstein was one of three health insurance and Affordable Care Act (ACA) experts interviewed for the article “An Obamacare Repeal Could Hurt You Even if You Get Insurance through Work.” The article focused on changes being considered as part of the repeal and replacement of the ACA by the Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Congress. It looked at several benefits that employer-sponsored health plans have added under the ACA and how some could go away under proposed reforms of the health care law. Goldstein spoke with TIME reporter Lisa Zamosky on the ACA’s current ban on lifetime limits for coverage.

Lifetime Limits For Insurers 

The health care law signed by President Obama in 2010 prevents insurers from placing annual or lifetime limits on the amount they will pay toward covered health care. Prior to the ACA’s enactment, it was common for plans to limit care to one million dollars over an insured’s lifetime. Goldstein noted, “Most people don’t realize that one bout of cancer before the law could cap out their insurance coverage, leaving them totally on the hook for all costs.” As Congress debates ACA alternatives, it’s possible an annual or lifetime limit could return. Another topic addressed in the article was free preventive care services, which is among the most-popular provisions of the ACA. It’s estimated 71 million Americans gained access to colonoscopy screenings, Pap smears, mammograms, well-baby care visits, and other services without cost-sharing under the health care law.

Millions of women with workplace-sponsored insurance also gained access to contraceptive care at no cost. This could be cut in any ACA repeal. Before the ACA, employers offering health insurance could impose a waiting period on new hires with a pre-existing health condition. That meant some who left or lost a job and were not able to afford to maintain their prior health coverage under COBRA could be forced to wait up to a year for new health insurance.

Pre-existing Condition Coverage In Replacement Plan

It’s not yet known whether the ACA’s coverage of pre-existing conditions will be maintained in a replacement plan. According to JoAnn Volk, research professor with the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, who was among the other two experts featured in the TIME article, “There’s a real threat that could go away and we’d go back to the bad old days.” To read the full TIME article, which also addressed out-of-pocket limits, coverage for 20-somethings through a parent’s plan, and the right for an independent claim review, click here. For assistance with your group’s employee benefits, contact your broker. If you don’t already have a broker, we’ll help you find a local CaliforniaChoice broker to speak with about your health insurance needs.

What The Potential ACA Repeal Means For Small Business

President Trump said in a recorded interview that aired on Super Bowl Sunday that any “replacement” for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) might take until 2018. U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) has said he expects things to happen more quickly. In the middle are small business owners and their employees who wonder what changes to expect – in the short and long term.

There’s been no shortage of suggestions on ways to change the ACA, almost from the day it was signed into law seven year ago. But, recently, there’s been more talk in Washington, DC, about “repairing” Obamacare rather than replacing it. By the president’s own admission, it is a complicated process to go about overhauling a program that delivers health insurance to millions of Americans.

Let’s look at some potential drawbacks for small businesses if the ACA is repealed.

Reduced accessibility

Since the ACA was enacted, millions of previously uninsured individuals have been able to get health insurance, albeit some with high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. Some of those with new coverage have it because they’ve been able to join a parent’s plan (often through an employer) under the dependent provision of the ACA.

Some who may have been denied health insurance in the past because of a pre-existing health condition have coverage today because the ACA does not allow insurers to refuse coverage (or charge someone a higher premium) because of their health.

Others may have insurance today because they work for an Applicable Large Employer (ALE) required to offer health insurance to full-time equivalent employees.

If the employer mandate is eliminated, some businesses may drop their current group coverage, while others may move to replace the comprehensive benefits required by the ACA in favor of less-expensive plans that don’t offer the “minimum essential benefits” required by the health care law.

ACA repeal/repair/replacement could also reduce the number of insurers in the health insurance market. It all depends on the extent of the changes made by Congress. On the heels of its rejected proposal to merge with Aetna, Humana has said it will not be a participant in the ACA exchanges in 2018. However, its plans are not yet known for coverage outside of the ACA marketplaces.

Increasing medical costs, higher premiums

Since the ACA became law, the escalation in health care premiums (for individual and group coverage) has slowed. According to one analysis, three years before the ACA took effect, health insurance premiums were increasing by 10-12 percent annually. It was reported last year that individual premiums were lower than for comparable coverage available in 2013. On the group health front, a Commonwealth Fund analysis published in December 2014 shows an average annual growth rate of 5.1 percent in the seven years before the health care law, as compared to a 4.1 percent growth in premiums from 2010 to 2013.

In mid-February 2017, Health Affairs published a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) report that projects a 5.6 percent annual increase in future health care spending. That’s up from 4.8 percent last year. That could foreshadow an increase in health insurance premiums as insurers react to higher health care and drug costs in the next decade.

ACA opponents have suggested any replacement plan will cost less, maybe even significantly less depending on the updated law’s final provisions; however, others are expecting higher premiums – at least in the first year of Trumpcare – as insurers pull back and wait to see what the enrollment and claims numbers might look like.

More high-deductible health plans and HSAs

President Trump has repeatedly voiced support for increased future use of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), which offer tax-advantages to those enrolled in high-deductible health plans. There is no federal tax on HSA contributions and no tax due on funds (or earned interest) when used for qualified health care expenses.

Critics say HSAs are very helpful to high-income people, but offer fewer benefits to lower-income individuals who may not have the ability to contribute. A 2015 report by the Small Business Administration found the median income for individuals in California at their own incorporated small business was $56,029 in 2013.

 

Your employee benefits broker can help you stay up to date on what’s likely ahead for the ACA, its possible repeal (or repair), and what will and won’t change. If you don’t already have an employee benefits broker, we’ll help you find a local CaliforniaChoice broker to speak with about your group health insurance needs.

With Valentine’s Day now in the rear-view mirror, that means taxes are about to come due. The deadline for filing income taxes for 2016 is Monday, April 17, 2017, since April 15th falls during the weekend again this year. However, not all dates for all filers are the same.

For example, Business News Daily reports the due date for C-Corporations (Form 1120) was pushed back a month – from mid-March to mid-April, while the due dates for Partnerships (Form 1120) and S-Corporations (Form 1120-S) have been pushed up – from April 15 to March 15. Small business owners who won’t be able to complete their filings by the due date need to ask for an extension (and make their estimated tax payment) by the appropriate due date, even if they expect to be granted an extension.

Whatever your business or business type, here are a few tax tips to consider – for this year and/or future years.

Record Keeping

It’s important you do a good job throughout the year with your record keeping. That includes saving receipts and tracking and analyzing your business expenditures. Entering expenses into a business accounting system like QuickBooks can be useful. But hiring a pro can be even better. When comparing professionals, hire one who specializes in your industry, if possible. Tax filing is complicated, so you don’t want to wait until the deadline is near to begin digging up your receipts for the past year. If you’re using a bookkeeper, accountant, and/or a tax professional, that will give you a clearer picture of your business at tax time. If you wait, you’re likely to miss out on some valuable deductions. (See ideas below.)

Business-only Accounts

Don’t be among the nearly one in five business owners who mix their accounts. According to a survey and White Paper by Manta and Nav, 15.43 percent of male business owners – and 21.88 percent of female business owners – don’t have separate personal and business accounts. It’s much easier to know with certainty what expense belongs to your business (and what expenses do not) if you set up separate checking and credit card accounts.

Maximize Your Deductions

If you’re facing a choice of your mileage deduction or your actual auto expenses, it’s often better to take the mileage deduction.

The PATH Act, also known as the “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes” Act of 2015, made Section 179 of the federal tax code permanent. It allows businesses to deduct the full purchase price of financed or leased equipment and off-the-shelf software. Business News Daily says that gives qualified businesses the option to take a full-cost deduction for used and new equipment purchases of less than $2 million instead of a series of smaller deduction over five years.

Other possible deductions are contract labor, supplies (such as cleaning supplies used by a contracted cleaning service), utilities, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, bonus depreciation, a research and development tax credit, and the cost of insurance. Malpractice coverage and business continuation coverage are typically fully deductible.

According to the IRS, a small business may also be eligible for a health care tax credit if the business has fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees, pays average wages of less than $52,000 a year for each full-time equivalent employee, and covers at least half of the employees’ health insurance premiums. To be eligible for the tax credit, the employer must purchase coverage through the Small Business Health Options Program (also known as the SHOP Marketplace). Talk with your accountant or tax preparer to see if your business might be eligible for any of these deductions.

If you don’t keep your accounts and equipment separate (as suggested above), keep in mind that when you use personal assets for businesses purposes (like a laptop, home office, or car), you may be entitled to a tax deduction. Again, your tax professional can provide you with guidance on the matter.

If you’re looking for guidance on your employee benefits, a CaliforniaChoice broker can help you review your current plan or discuss with you how to start a new plan for your employees. If you don’t already have a broker, we’ll help you find a local CaliforniaChoice broker to speak with about your group’s health insurance needs.