Health extension for small business

California insurance commissioner Dave JonesSmall businesses in California have won another year to update their employee health insurance to policies that are in full compliance with the Affordable Care Act.

The employers had been required to move by the end of the year to plans that met the minimum standards under the Affordable Care Act. Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones noted that many small employers would upgrade to new policies anyway, but the new law “provides additional choices to those who choose to use the transition period.”

Jones was the sponsor of Senate Bill 1446, which was authored by state Senator Mark DeSaulnier. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure July 7. Jones, who has clashed with the state Obamacare operation on occasion, said: “The signing of SB 1446 is a victory for all California small businesses.”

Small employers with “non-grandfathered health insurance coverage” purchased by December 31, 2013, have the option to renew their existing coverage for one year, rather than be required to move by the end of 2014 to new coverage. Employers who renew their health insurance policies will need to switch by the end of 2015.

The Obama administration granted extensions to individuals with non-Affordable Care Act compliant policies, but Covered California did not go along with the change. President Obama also announced a transitional policy to allow employers to renew non-compliant plans until Oct. 1, 2014, without running afoul of federal law. This policy was later changed to allow employers to renew non-compliant plans until Oct. 1, 2016. The ultimate decision was left to the states, however.

Groups backing the Senate health insurance legislation included the California Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the California Restaurant Association.

The Department of Insurance noted:

The small employer policies that could be renewed under this bill already are required to comply with many ACA and state-based reforms such as preventative healthcare coverage without co-pays or deductibles, a ban on lifetime caps, the inclusion of maternity care, coverage for autism and the elimination of gender discrimination in setting premiums.

An earlier version of the health care bill gave small employers several more years to comply. The legislation passed both the Senate and Assembly on unanimous votes.

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