Oregon reaches out to small businesses to clear up reform confusion

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org. Follow her on Facebook.

If you had to draw up a list of the five or six states that are likely to have a – relatively – successful launch of the health care exchanges (AKA marketplaces) this fall, Oregon would be one of them.

Gov. John Kitzhaber, a former emergency physician who has done a lot of work on health system delivery reform and quality improvement, is committed to the law’s success, as is much of the state’s political world. Oregon had already been experimenting with coverage expansion, in part through Medicaid. The state is running its own exchange and has already started outreach. On Twitter and online at least the opening ads have been a hit.

While most of the attention is on the individual exchanges, SHOP exchanges also will offer a place for small businesses to get coverage for their workers. Those with up to 50 workers can choose to cover them and certain small businesses may qualify for tax credits to subsidize coverage. Note – this voluntary. These small businesses do NOT have to cover workers, not now and not when the delayed employer mandate begins in January u 2015.

The next tier – from 50 up to 100 workers – coverage is optional for this first year because of the mandate delay. They will have to provide coverage in 2015. In most states they will be able to so either through the SHOP exchange or the outside market.

The coverage rules and requirements have been confusing to small business and there’s a lot of misinformation about who has to do what.

Oregon is trying to clear that up. Oregon Public Radio’s Kristian Foden-Vencil  did a short piece recently on the exchange’s outreach to the business world, particularly small and mid-size businesses that can use the SHOP option. Cover Oregon wants to give a handful of businesses associations up to $150,000 each to educate fellow small businesses. But with the clock ticking for enrollment, they haven’t yet figured out precisely how. Here’s a link to their online info about SHOP exchanges.

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