ObamaCare: “Shop Before You Drop”

Ladies, and men who share finances with a woman, certainly know the term: “Shop until you drop”.  Many a woman has fallen prey to this quest on a Saturday shopping spree.

However, this phrase with a little tweaking can certainly give us a little insight and strategy when it comes to ObamaCare; aka the Affordable Health Care Act.

With all of the news coverage, opinions and justifiable confusion with an implementation of its final stages, I would like to provide some strategies that can help you through this maze.

1. Only utilize the purposes of the Exchange if and when necessary.  Remember, the primary purpose of the Exchanges is to provide a place for those without insurance to obtain coverage and potentially for others of us to get better or more affordable insurance than we may have currently.  Thus, it is a great place to “shop” but don’t feel like you are stuck with the Exchange as your only option and are forced to participate.  What you are forced to do, unless you are willing to pay a penalty, is have insurance.  Where you acquire it…is up to you.

2. Don’t forget the ‘Open Market’.  The private marketplace for insurance is still alive and well.  In fact, you may certainly do better finding a more affordable insurance policy or even a more attractive ‘network of doctors’ in a non-Exchange policy.  Hugh Borthwick, of HJB Benefits Solutions, Inc, in Southern California, cautions buyers to look at the network of doctors and hospitals that comes with their policy.  Hugh pointed out “Many don’t realize that the savings that policies in the ‘Exchanges’ may provide are because they provide a smaller network of doctors under the plan and may be stripped of any dental or vision care.” The reality is that insurance companies still need to build and provide networks under HMOs or PPOs.

3. Rely on your status as a Small Business Owner if and when possible. Don’t forget those small business owners have an edge when shopping for policies.  They can shop for an individual policy or a business policy if they have two more employees (your spouse can qualify as that 2nd employee).  Moreover, the HRA or Health Reimbursement Arrangement is a small business plan that can be established so you get a tax write-off for your out of pocket expenses over and above your insurance premiums.  This could include co-pays, deductibles, prescription drugs, chiropractic, dental, etc..  Recently, there has been a ton of misinformation that HRA’s are dead on arrival due to IRS Notice 2013-54, however, Todd Kuehn, of TASC Online, a 3rd party administrator for HRAs nationwide, confirms that “HRAs are still alive and well and if you have between 2 and 49 employees, we still have plenty of options to structure significant tax savings with HRAs for out of pocket medical expenses for small business owners”.

4. Consider renewing your Policy before December 1st.  There is another ‘sleeper’ strategy many business owners are missing out on.  For those of you that have a current health insurance policy, be cautious not to let it lapse.  If you ‘renew’ before December 1st you can avoid any rate increases under the Affordable Health Care Act pricing scheme.  Mr. Borthwick, again reminds us that by renewing this year “Policyholders will have one more year under prior year’s pricing schedules and restrictions.” Next year, you can go shopping again, but hopefully, under an Obamacare pricing schedule we’ll all be pleasantly surprised with and will have proved Rep. Boehner wrong.

Study your Exchange in your State, and interview your current health insurance agent or find one if you don’t already have one.

This is not the time to ignore the issue of health care, although the topic and politics may turn your stomach. Bottom line, this is a perfect opportunity to go shopping and review all of your options.

* To sign up for Mark’s weekly Free E-Newsletter and receive his Free E-Book “The Top 10 Best Tax Saving Secrets Everyone Should Know” visit www.markjkohler.com.

Mark J. Kohler is a CPA, Attorney, co-host of the Radio Show “Refresh Your Wealth” and author of the new book “The Business Owner’s Guide to Financial Freedom- What Wall Street isn’t Telling You” and, “The Tax and Legal Playbook- Game Changing Solutions For Your Small Business Questions” He is also a partner at the law firm Kyler Kohler Ostermiller & Sorensen, LLP and the accounting firm K&E CPAs, LLP. 

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