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Bypass Healthcare.gov: Small employers can buy health insurance through brokers

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

The Healthcare.gov website may be broken, but that doesn’t mean small business owners who want to buy health insurance for their employees have to wait.

They can learn about coverage options, costs and available tax credits by working with an insurance broker who has registered with the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to sell policies through the Affordable Care Act’s Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP).

Key point: SHOP policies purchased with the help of a licensed broker qualify for small business health care tax credit worth up to 50% of premium costs. Employers must buy SHOP-approved coverage in order to take advantage of the tax credits.

In late October, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner told House Ways and Means Committee that the SHOP exchanges on Healthcare.gov would be functional “at the end of November.” These days that seems overly optimistic.

Despite the government’s website woes, brokers have begun working with small businesses to find coverage for employees. Earlier this year, a CMS statement said, “CMS anticipates that agents and brokers will play a critical role in helping qualified employers and employees enroll in coverage.”

Advice: Ask your broker if he or she has registered with CMS to facilitate SHOP policy sales. Using a broker will not raise the price of insurance premiums.

If employers “enroll by Dec. 15, 2013, coverage will begin Jan. 1, 2014,” according to a statement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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