The health insurance marketplace will open as planned in Colorado on October 1.

Fed Government Announces Postponement

On July 2, the Obama Administration announced its decision to postpone for one year the requirement in the Affordable Care Act that businesses with more than 50 employees provide health insurance or face a penalty.  Officials at Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s health insurance marketplace, have stated that the announcement does not affect the way the marketplace will operate or who it will serve.

“To be honest with you, we can’t undo our plan,” said Patty Fontneau, CEO and executive director of Connect for Health Colorado, during a marketplace board meeting. “To not offer choice would cripple us.”

Connect for Health Colorado, which aims to help individuals and small business owners shop for health insurance and learn if they qualify for public health insurance or tax rebates, will serve employers in Colorado with less than 50 employees.  Unlike employers with more than 50 employees, employers with less than 50 employees do not face a federal requirement to provide insurance to their workers.

Unknowns into Opportunities

While unknowns still remain with certain aspects of the marketplace, including how individuals will report who their employer is and whether or not they offer insurance, many health care leaders in the state see the recent federal announcement as an opportunity.

Exchange board member Richard Betts, Connect for Health Colorado board member, says that with all the confusion business owners have regarding health care reform, there is a significant opportunity to educate and attract new customers.  “That’s a whole huge market of individuals who are now going to become (Connect for Health Colorado’s) target market for next year,” Betts said. “You want to reach out to people who are conduits to employees.”

Donna Wehe, Small Business Development Center Director also sees it as an opportunity.  “Most small business owners I know are so busy trying to put out their own fires that they don’t have time to understand all of these (health care) changes.”

Marketplaces are "Cornerstones" of Healthcare Law

John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of the Small Business Majority explained that the health insurance marketplaces “are the cornerstone of the new law for small businesses and if implemented properly can significantly control premium costs.  We plan to continue our educational efforts through the summer and fall to ensure this critical information gets into as many small business owners’ hands as possible before open enrollment kicks off in October.”

Wehe added that the “The Small Business Development Center, which was the recipient of the Small Business Navigator Program for education about the Colorado marketplace, will also be recruiting and training five new outreach coordinators that will serve regional areas across the state.  The coordinators will host workshops and provide free consulting to small business owners so they understand their options.”

Wehe said that she knows it will be helpful for business owners to hear the “real story of what their options are.”

To learn more about the marketplace, visit www.connectforhealthco.com.  To learn more about support for small businesses through the SBDC, visit www.coloradosbdc.org.

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