Health seminar leaves questions unanswered

By Eric Norwood Jr.

PNT staff writer

enorwood@pntonline.com

Local small business owners still had questions after attending a seminar held Tuesday at the Yam Theatre regarding new state health insurance options for small businesses.

Eric Norwood Jr.: Portales News-Tribune John Woosley, the district director of the Small Business Administration, speaks to the crowd Tuesday at the Yam Theatre during a seminar about the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange.

Eric Norwood Jr.: Portales News-Tribune
John Woosley, the district director of the Small Business Administration, speaks to the crowd Tuesday at the Yam Theatre during a seminar about the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange.

“I have employees, five of them. We may have to scale back on our operation, as far as the cost,” said Jesse Abarca, owner of Blossom Heifer Ranch, after the conclusion of the hour-long seminar. “In the long run, who does it hurt? If I can’t afford to keep them, where do they stand? I think the important thing is we need more information, accurate information.”

The seminar was presented by John Woosley, district director for the Small Business Administration.

“The idea is to get the word out about the Affordable Care Act, and especially since I’m the district director for the Small Business Administration for New Mexico, my focus is on small businesses and how their going to be benefited by the act, and be able to provide insurance to their employees,” said Woosley.

Woosely provided a presentation explaining the Small Business Health Options Program, which is a part of the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange. According to the presentation, the program is for small businesses with 50 or fewer employees, including non-profit organizations.

The New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange has not announced its premiums.

The Small Business Health Options Program offers businesses health insurance options and information needed to make decisions on coverage. Small employers can start enrolling Oct. 1, with coverage beginning on Jan. 1.

However, during the “Golden Enrollment Period” of the months of November and December, there is no minimum participation rate for employees. After this time, the minimum employee participation rate will be 50 percent, meaning at least half of employees must be covered.

“They did not cover what happens to the employer if they do not offer insurance,” said Abarca.

City councilor and owner of Portales Home Medical Equipment Keith Thomas had concerns before entering the seminar.

“I came to figure out what’s going on. Even being in the business, I’m not sure which direction we’re going. I deal with Medicare every day. And every day we wonder where it’s going, and so do the people I serve. I’m here to get a leg up on what’s going on here, because I need to know,” said Thomas.

The cost of medical coverage plans available through New Mexico’s health insurance exchange likely will be lower than in many other states, according to a new national study.

The state’s insurance regulator also said uninsured New Mexicans will find more health insurance options through the exchange than currently are available through the private insurance market. For people who qualify for federal subsidies to buy their insurance, premiums will typically be lower than current market rates, according to State Insurance Superintendent John Franchini.

 

— The Associated Press contributed to this story

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