Keith Hall: Important open enrollment updates for small business, self-employed

It is health-care open enrollment season and for 2020 there are important changes and updates to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that small business owners and self-employed Americans need to know.

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During this year’s open enrollment season, which runs until December 15, it’s critical that entrepreneurs take time to closely review their current health insurance policy and determine how changes for next year’s plans will impact their bottom-lines. In the end, the time investment now could reap big savings – while ignoring it could result in heavy costs - throughout the next year.

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Small business owners and self-employed Americans are the lifeblood of the country’s economy. These entrepreneurs consistently rank health-care access and affordability as a top challenge faced by their small businesses.

Since passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the nation’s health-care law, lawmakers in Washington, D.C. have consistently debated the merits. Those debates continue and are unlikely to subside anytime soon, but in the meantime self-employed individuals need to know what the current law means for them and their families and how to navigate it.

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This year, several important new changes to the law could have a significant impact on many entrepreneurs. In addition to policy changes set to take effect next year, individual variables such as income, family structure, health and where you live are also important factors in determining the right plan.

For members of the small business and self-employed community, now is the time to shop, compare and plan for your health-care needs for next year.

For members of the small business and self-employed community, now is the time to shop, compare and plan for your health-care needs for next year. If you already have health insurance on either the federal or state marketplace exchanges, you will need to confirm your current policy will be available for 2020. Even if it is still available, you may still want to see if a more cost-effective option, given this year’s changes, is available to better meet the needs of you and your family.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help in choosing the right health-care plan. There are many resources available, including local navigators across the country trained and available to help answer questions and sign up individuals. Also, online you can find extensive frequently asked questions and expert advice to help answer dozens of different questions about the health insurance marketplace and what is right for you.

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The most important thing to remember is that you only have a limited amount of time to review and make those decisions. You must complete your new or renewal application by December 15  in order for your health insurance coverage to begin on January 1, 2020. If you miss this deadline, you will not be able to sign up for a marketplace health plan until November 1, 2020, a full year from now.

Once you sign up with a plan, you must stay with that plan for 12 months.

In addition, HealthCare.gov enrollees can now sign up for exchange coverage through enhanced direct enrollment (EDE). A current list of these approved, private sector entities is available if you are interested in purchasing a plan directly.

Keith Hall is a certified public accountant and president and CEO of the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE), the nation’s leading resource and advocate for the self-employed and micro-businesses.