Good coverage options for small businesses heading into 2017

This blog post from Mark Herbert originally appeared on

With the open enrollment period for health insurance rapidly approaching, many small business owners are probably starting to think about their plans for next year – and with lots of recent rumblings about the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) success, some small business owners may be worried about their options. But for California’s small business owners, there’s actually plenty of good news about the ACA. As long as small business owners plan ahead, they shouldn’t encounter any big surprises heading into 2017.

Critics of the ACA have noted that coverage rates for plans purchased through the law’s individual market are rising due to a variety of factors. But recent news from California’s small business exchange, known as Covered California for Small Business (CCSB), indicates that employers shouldn’t worry about major rate hikes. In fact, statewide rate increases this year for employer-based plans purchased through CCSB will only be 5.9 percent, compared to 7.2 percent last year. Businesses with 100 or fewer employees can purchase a plan through the market at anytime, and the market continues to offer the same benefits as always – like tax credits for qualified businesses and employee choice, which means employees can choose between different coverage options.

As rates for the small business market were just released, small business owners should start thinking now about what they plan to do regarding their health coverage for next year. Many small employers may want to contact a certified health insurance broker who can assist with the enrollment process, especially if they need some extra guidance picking and enrolling in a plan. If so, employers may want to start reaching out to brokers sooner than later – as the new year approaches, brokers’ calendars will quickly begin to fill up. Brokers are well-versed in the ins-and-outs of the ACA, and there’s often no extra cost to utilize their services.

For self-employed entrepreneurs who purchase their coverage through the individual exchange, or small business owners who have concerns about the stability of the ACA and purchasing group coverage through the group market, there’s additional news. Recent data from the Census Bureau show that the nation’s uninsured rate is the lowest since the Great Recession in large part because of individuals purchasing plans through the exchange. In fact, an impressive 4 million Americans gained health insurance last year alone. These numbers indicate that the ACA is working how it should by insuring those who previously didn’t have access to healthcare – including the self-employed.  Overall, this means more stability for healthcare costs. When more people are insured, it means there are fewer unpaid emergency costs to be passed onto consumers.  

There’s no arguing that the health insurance marketplaces have hit some recent challenges. But overall, California’s small business owners shouldn’t panic. Rates are stabilizing for small employers, the ACA is working and small businesses have more options than ever. If small employers plan ahead, 2017 should be a good year for health insurance.