With key provisions of the Affordable Care Act set to take effect in 2014, every state in the nation will have to have a health insurance marketplace by then. Many are wondering what the impact on small businesses and individuals will be. To discuss how health care reform will affect the Garden State, NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider sat down with Dr. Jaime Torres, Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
Torres said he’s been busy making the rounds, meeting with the various stakeholders who will be called upon to get the word out about the new law and helping to enroll approximately 1 million people who are currently uninsured.
“These are folks who are middle class people who work in small businesses, whose businesses are not able to afford coverage,” he said. “They’re people who are working hard but cannot afford to buy health coverage.”
As it stands now, Torres said that private health insurance is cost-prohibitive for many individuals.
“Beginning next year we will be able to offer you competitive health insurance but also offer subsidies to help you pay for the insurance because it only works if everybody’s covered.”
The subsidies will come in the form of tax credits next year that will help eligible small businesses and individuals pay for health insurance premiums, said Torres.
“For example, small businesses will benefit because in the past they have paid at least 18 percent more for the same coverage than a large business,” Torres explained. “So now, we’re going to pull them together and lower the cost and offer quality insurance and small businesses right now can get tax credits to pay for that.”
Torres pointed out that small businesses who have 50 employees or less will not be required to buy health insurance.
“There’s a lot of misinformation and there’s a lot of confusion and I think as implementation goes on people will see the benefit for small businesses and also the families.”
As regional director, Torres overseas an area that includes not only New Jersey but New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to Torres, implementation of the health care act and exchanges will be seamless and there should be no difference between New York and New Jersey.
“The tax credits will be the same,” he said. “It will be similar across the nation and all that information that I’ve been providing can be accessed through healthcare.gov. And that’s one of the places that small businesses and individuals can get that information.”
Torres applauded Gov. Christie’s decision to expand Medicaid for the people of New Jersey, saying that adult men and women who do not have children will be able to qualify for coverage.
“We’re talking about an individual making $15,000 or a family of four making $30,000. So for the first time, we’re expecting over 300,000 individuals to be eligible for the Medicaid expansion in New Jersey. Fantastic idea and I congratulate the governor on that.”