The Free Press, Mankato, MN

MN Health Care

September 4, 2013

Seminar offers insights into new health care law

MANKATO — Starting Jan. 1, every American, with limited exceptions, will either have health insurance or a fine. One year later, that requirement extends to businesses with more than 50 employees. 

If only it were truly that simple. 

On Friday, Greater Mankato Growth assembled a top-tier group of Minnesota experts to explain to its members how they need to get ready for the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. 

One key, the business owners were told, lies in the state’s “exchange,” which is basically a website to buy health insurance, called MNsure. 

Unless you’re applying for a government-funded insurance such as MinnesotaCare, no one is required to use MNsure. But there’s a sweet incentive for individuals, small nonprofits and small-business owners to learn about it. 

That’s because business owners and nonprofits with fewer than 25 employees will be able to get a discount worth as much as 50 percent of their health care bill, starting Jan. 1. (The nonprofit limit will be 35 percent.) There are two more requirements: The business must pay an average wage of less than $50,000 a year, and it must pay at least half of its employees’ health insurance premiums.

It’s important to note that these small businesses — every business with fewer than 50 employees, actually - are not required to provide health insurance. Health care reforms require only individuals to get insurance and large employers to offer it.

At first, only businesses with fewer than 50 employees can use the exchange. Starting in 2016, that increases to 100 employees or fewer, and the state may decide to let in even larger companies in 2017.

Large business owners, though, face their own decision.

One man who said he was a large employer told the panel that his company has a major decision to make: Pay the penalty of $2,000 per employee or provide insurance.

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