As we’ve noted many times before, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) does NOT require small businesses with fewer than 50 employees to provide healthcare insurance. However, you do have to make employees aware that they (and you) can purchase insurance through a health insurance marketplace. One of the complaints about the consumer insurance offered through such marketplaces is the confusing variations in coverage.

The today (Oct. 18, 2016) is reporting that when ACA insurance marketplaces start open enrollment in two weeks (Nov. 1, 2016-Jan. 1, 2017), many consumers (including small business owners) will have a new option: standardized health plans that cover basic services without a deductible.

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With many health plans on the marketplace coming with deductibles in the thousands of dollars, consumers have complained that they were getting little benefit beyond coverage for catastrophic problems. The new standardized options are meant to address that concern — to ensure that “enrollees receive some upfront value for their premium dollars,” as the Obama administration said.

The new plans could still be costly. While the federal government specifies deductibles, co-payments and other out-of-pocket costs for the standardized options, it does not limit premiums, which in most cases are still regulated by state insurance commissioners. The administration has said it does not expect the standardized options to have a significant effect on premiums in 2017.

“This is one more tool that will make it easier for consumers to select the right plan,” said Marjorie K. Connolly, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, told the Times.

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