D.C. chapter learns how ACA affects craft brewery, other small businesses

Phil Galewitz

About Phil Galewitz

Phil Galewitz (@philgalewitz), is a senior correspondent at Kaiser Health News covering Medicaid, Medicare, long-term care, hospitals and state health issues. He is a former member of AHCJ's board of directors.

Photo: Phil Galewitz

Photo: Phil Galewitz

About 25 Washington, D.C., area journalists met on Sept. 30 to learn about how the Affordable Care Act was affecting a local brewery and discover how the district’s health insurance exchange was working to help such small employers gain coverage for their employees.

The AHCJ D.C. chapter happy hour event was held on the second floor of Southern Hospitality, a restaurant and bar in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Justin Cox, a co-owner of Atlas Brew Works, explained how the Obamacare insurance exchange enables him to get coverage for his five full-time employees. He said helping his workers get coverage is critical as a way to retain their services. He said the exchange gives him and his workers a wide array of plans to choose from. But he did say the enrollment process was somewhat daunting.

Photo: Anna Miller

Photo: Anna Miller

Atlas, which started selling beer in the district in 2013, pays about 85 percent of the health insurance premium for his workers. In addition to talking about buying insurance coverage, Cox spoke a little about District Common, one of the flagship beers, which is a lager similar to Anchor Steam. The amber brew is slightly hoppy but not overbearing and is refreshingly drinkable, particularly compared to today’s many higher alcohol craft beers.

Sabrina Corlette, project director at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University, told attendees the Obamacare small business exchange has so far had underwhelming enrollment. The latest tally is about 85,000 employers nationally had signed up since 2014. She talked about her recent report on the topic.

She said many small employers find it cheaper to get coverage outside the exchange and other employers simply direct workers to the individual exchange. The small business exchange has received much less publicity than the individual exchanges which have signed up over 9 million people.

Photo: Anna MillerRobert Shiver of DC Health Link speaks at the AHCJ chapter event.

Photo: Anna MillerRobert Shiver of DC Health Link speaks at the AHCJ chapter event.

Finally, officials from DC Health Link, the district’s health insurance exchange, were on hand to talk about their success and challenges in signing up employers with less than 50 workers. Robert Shiver, director of marketplace innovation, policy, and operations at the exchange, told attendees that more than 350 employers in the district had bought coverage on the small business exchange. Linda Wharton Boyd, director of communications, also met with reporters.

Journalists from The Atlantic, Politico, Kaiser Health News, NPR and The Boston Globe were among those in attendance. Many stayed to have dinner and drink wine and Atlas’ District Common.

The gathering was the fourth D.C. AHCJ chapter event of 2015. Two more chapter events are planned for this year, with the next scheduled for Oct. 27 at Politico offices in Roslyn, Va.

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