Health plan exchange draws 110000 new NC customers

31 Dec 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

Health plan exchange draws 110,000 new NC customers.

About 110,000 North Carolinians bought new health insurance plans on the Affordable Care Act exchange during the first month of 2015 enrollment, according to numbers released Tuesday by the U.S. Many businesses in low-wage industries have hired more part-time workers and cut the hours of full-timers recently to soften the impact of new health law requirements that take effect Thursday, some consultants say. The strategies have had only a modest impact on job growth, which has accelerated substantially this year, but could take a somewhat bigger toll next year as firms gear up for an expanded health care mandate in 2016. Under the health care law, businesses that employ at least 100 full-time workers — or full-time equivalents, including part-time workers — must offer health benefits to at least 70% of those working at least 30 hours a week by Thursday, or pay a penalty.

The health coverage mandate for individuals took effect last January, but the Obama administration pushed back the effective date for businesses in 2013. The 2015 national average is 87 percent. “It looks like we’re going to be a national leader again,” said Adam Linker, health policy analyst for the nonprofit N.C. Dec. 15 was the deadline to sign up for coverage that kicks in Jan. 1, though the federal government offered a little extra time for those who had trouble getting through to the help line as the deadline neared. Michelle Neblett, senior director of labor and workforce policy for the National Restaurant Association, says many restaurants are being more cautious about boosting the workweek of part-timers to 30 hours or more, doling out such increases to reward top performers. Businesses with fewer than 100 employees also already have felt some impact from the health law, says a new survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, a small-business trade group.

In North Carolina, those whose income falls below the federal poverty level ($11,670 for an individual, $23,850 for a household of four) can’t get help buying insurance. Those that provide health insurance now must offer coverage for mental health and other services — unless they’re grandfathered under existing plans — boosting premiums, says Kevin Kuhlman, NFIB director of federal policy. The federal plan called for states to expand Medicaid to cover low-income adults, but North Carolina and 22 other states have declined to do so, citing costs and questions about the value of expansion. Mike DeVoge, owner of a 12-employee marina in Conneaut Lake, Pa., says costs for the six workers who are eligible for insurance recently increased 40% and are set to rise another 60% in 2016.

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