There are many online resources for those wanting to learn more about federal health care reform and what it could mean for consumers and business owners:
■ State of Colorado: www.colorado.gov/healthreform
■ U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight: http://cciio.cms.gov
■ U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, consumer web portal: www.healthcare.gov
■ U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration:www.dol.gov/ebsa/...> www.dol.gov/ebsa/...
■ Internal Revenue Service: www.irs.gov/businesses
■ White House health care reform: www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform
— Source: Rocky Mountain Health Plans
Steamboat Springs A health care expert gave a reminder last week that could help small business owners filing last-minute federal income tax returns Monday.
Because of Friday’s observation of Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C., honoring President Abraham Lincoln’s freeing of slaves in the district, this year’s tax deadline falls Monday, rather than the customary April 15.
Taxes were one of many health care-related topics on the table Thursday at Steamboat Smokehouse, where Neil Waldron, of Rocky Mountain Health Plans, spoke to about 20 members of the local business community. Waldron gave a broad review and update of the federal health care overhaul adopted in March 2010.
While the legislation will be implemented during the next several years, Waldron noted that already in place is a tax credit for small business owners with fewer than 25 employees and average taxable wages of less than $50,000. Waldron said the credit could reduce employer contributions toward employees’ health care by as much as 35 percent.
“If you qualify, you want to take advantage of this because it can reduce your insurance costs today,” Waldron said. “If you’re eligible, go to your accountant. There’s already IRS regulations out on this.”
Thursday’s event was a Success Steps luncheon for small business owners, a collaborative effort of Colorado Mountain College’s Small Business Resource Center, SCORE and the Steamboat Springs Economic Development Cooperative.
In addition to the tax credit, much of Thursday’s conversation focused on the implementation of a Colorado health care exchange, which the federal overhaul requires by 2014.
“That’s the big year,” Waldron said about 2014. “That’s when it really all takes effect, which, of course, happens after the presidential election.”
Waldron described the exchange as a mechanism through which people choose their health care carrier. He compared the exchange to online travel sites such as Orbitz, which provide customers with a range of travel options and prices.
Under the exchange system, Waldron said, employers would select a coverage level and employees would choose their plan and carrier.
“It’s a significant increase in the power of the employee because they make all the choices,” he said.
After implementation by 2014, each state’s health care exchange must be self-sufficient by 2015.
“Given all the problems states are having, all the budget problems, this is a big, big issue,” Waldron noted.
Colorado legislators are taking on the issue this year.
State Senate Bill 200, referred to Legislative Council on March 31 by a Senate committee, would establish the state’s health care exchange as a nonprofit, public entity governed by a 12-member board of directors.
“We’re a supporter of the bill,” said Waldron, Rocky Mountain Health Plan’s chief marketing officer and vice president of strategic initiatives. “We think the bill is reasonably constructed.”
State Rep. Randy Baumgardner, a Hot Sulphur Springs Republican who represents Routt County and House District 57, said in Steamboat earlier this month that he, too, is leaning toward support for the bill.
Waldron said the exchange and implementation of the health care overhaul, as a whole, will change how many citizens receive care.
“You’re going to see a lot of people who don’t have insurance today move into the insurance market because it’s now going to be very affordable,” he said.
Waldron also noted that the overhaul remains very much in flux.
“It’s going to be continually changing,” Waldron said. “You’re completely reforming one of the biggest sectors in the economy.”
Randy Rudasics, of the Small Business Resource Center, said staying on top of the changes and the overhaul’s unfolding impacts will be challenging for business owners.
“It’s mind-bogglingly confusing,” Rudasics said. “That’s my first impression of it.”
— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com