A game-changer (OPINION)

by Talk Business & Politics ([email protected]) 113 views 

When asked about the challenges of owning and operating a small business, owners will offer a common reply: hiring and retaining quality employees.

There are a number of intangible benefits that people seek in their jobs such as trust, recognition, responsibility, opportunity for growth and respect. But those intangibles are almost impossible to meet unless employers provide for the tangible needs of their people.  For many workers, especially those with families, health insurance coverage is of equal importance to a steady paycheck. Without it, employees are constantly seeking their next job.

Until recently, many small business owners in Arkansas simply couldn’t afford to provide quality health insurance to their employees.  Not so anymore.

Arkansas Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) was implemented more than a year ago to help employers provide accessible, flexible and convenient health and dental coverage to employees. If an organization, profit or nonprofit, has between two and 50 employees, they can take advantage of this opportunity.

Unlike the past when business owners were held hostage by take-it-or-leave-it group policies, SHOP offers employers control by allowing them to choose plan options, how much they wish to contribute toward premium costs, how long the enrollment period will be and other parameters.  The plans from which to choose each provide comprehensive benefits — inpatient and outpatient — and are administered by trusted names in insurance.

Check out what these plans provide: emergency care, outpatient services, inpatient stays, pre- and post-natal, prescription drug, mental health and substance abuse assistance, pediatrics, lab testing, medical devices, vision and dental care. More importantly, each plan covers preventative care and screenings. Whether it is back-to-school physicals, flu shots or cholesterol screenings – most preventative services are provided without a co-payment.

Additionally, there are no lifetime limits to benefits and no restrictions for pre-existing conditions.

Access to federal tax credits is another benefit to business owners with fewer than 25 employees who provide insurance through Arkansas SHOP and meet certain criteria.  Tax credits are savings that can help reduce the cost of providing health insurance and are only available with qualifying Arkansas SHOP plans at www.myARinsurance.com.

While SHOP applies to business owners with two to 50 employees, there are also insurance options for individuals through My Arkansas Insurance.  It is called the Individual Marketplace. This offering is perfect for those who work for themselves, are between jobs, retired or are in school.

Like SHOP, the individual plans, provided by trusted private health insurance companies, are designed to meet the needs of Arkansas families with a variety of choices to fit health care needs and budgets, with financial help available if needed. They also include preventative care services that are often free of charge.

Arkansas SHOP and the Individual Marketplace are a win-win for everyone — small business owners and employees along with individuals.

At www.myARinsurance.com, you can explore your options and find local people including agents, brokers and assistors who can help you navigate the process and choose exactly the right plan.

Above all else, health insurance is no longer optional. It’s the law.

Individuals and certain businesses with no health insurance by Jan. 1 may have to pay a costly federal penalty. Open enrollment in the Individual Marketplace began on Nov. 1. To make sure you are covered when 2017 begins, you must be enrolled by Dec. 15.

Instead of writing a check to the government, invest in the health and well-being of your family and employees.

Arkansas SHOP and the Individual Marketplace through My Arkansas Insurance make providing quality health insurance possible. 

Get signed up. 


Cheryl Smith is executive director of the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace. She can be reached at 501-313-4197. The opinions expressed are those of the author.