Enrollment season is here: LGBT small businesses get covered under health reform

This is a guest post from the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

It’s open enrollment season once again – and that means that employers and employees all across the country are considering their new health insurance options! Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, there are many new options available, particularly for small businesses and their employees.

  • Small employers can provide health insurance through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) and may be eligible for a tax credit towards the cost of premiums.
  • Even if small employers don’t offer coverage, employees may qualify for financial help to purchase their own health insurance and should enroll before January 31, 2016!
  • LGBT employers and employees also benefit from new nondiscrimination protections, equal access to family coverage and financial help for married same-sex couples, and equal access to preventive care for transgender people, among other benefits.

These changes are already making a big difference for LGBT-owned businesses like Left Bank Books. Left Bank Books is the oldest and largest independently-owned bookstore in St. Louis and has a diverse staff of 17 employees whose ages range from 22 to 63.

Health insurance has always been a priority to co-owners, Jarek and Kris, but their group was so small that previous plans covered little and were extremely expensive.  So, in 2014, they visited the SHOP marketplace and, with the help of a broker, found a plan where they pay lower monthly premiums (about $350 per person per month) and have lower deductibles than they’d ever had before.

The coverage isn’t perfect – Jarek and Kris couldn’t purchase a plan that offered trans-inclusive health care, a priority for them and their staff, and the state’s largest hospital is out-of-network – but the coverage has been a definite improvement over previous options.

“Health insurance is a very important and personal issue for me as an employer, a colleague, and a trans man,” said Jarek. “The Affordable Care Act is about much more than health insurance for our community – it’s a civil rights law that helps protect those that are most vulnerable, and we at Left Bank Books want to be a part of that.”

Employers can enroll through the SHOP marketplace at any time during the year (and minimum participation and contribution requirements waived through December 15th, 2015). If your employees need coverage, they can sign up now through healthcare.gov – the final deadline to enroll for coverage is January 31, 2016.

For more information on the specific benefits of health reform for LGBT small business owners, please visit this fact sheet from NGLCC, Out2Enroll, and the Small Business Majority and visit Out2Enroll.org. Left Bank Books is a member of Small Business Majority’s Small Business Council.