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DC Business Leaders Say District’s New Health Insurance Marketplace Offers Competition, Choices, and Clout Most Local Employers Lack Today

Monday, September 30, 2013
Employers will have 267 health plan options, ability to offer employees a choice of insurers and plans.
Starting tomorrow, small businesses in the District of Columbia will have access to health insurance options at prices that are more competitive and affordable than previously available. A total of 267 health plans – including HMOs, PPOs, point of service plans, and health savings account compatible products – from four major insurers will be available beginning Oct. 1 for any employer in the District with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees.
 
Employers buying coverage at DCHealthLink.com – the District’s new online health insurance marketplace – will be able to offer their employees a choice of insurance companies and insurance plans, an ability most small companies do not have today. Employers also can work with their brokers or, if they don’t have a broker but want one, find a DC Health Link trained, certified broker using a new search tool.
 
“As a small business owner myself, I know the frustrations many entrepreneurs feel when they try to find affordable health insurance for themselves and their employees. This new small business marketplace is a game-changer for businesses in the District of Columbia,” said Diane C. Lewis, MPA, chair of the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority Executive Board. “By creating a transparent marketplace, we have engendered real price competition among insurers and that is good news for employers and employees,” she added. Lewis is co-principal and executive vice president for ALTA Consulting Group, which is based in the District.
 
Starting tomorrow, employers can review and compare plans offered by four major insurance companies: Aetna, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Kaiser Permanente, and UnitedHealthcare. Employers can go to DCHealthLink.com to create a secure account, provide basic information about their workers, decide whether to cover dependents and how much to contribute toward coverage.  An employer can choose an open enrollment period and their employees can start enrolling as early as Nov. 1. Small businesses, through their secure account, will see the employer and employee share and have until Dec. 12 to pay for coverage starting Jan. 1, 2014. 
 
An employer also can choose what coverage options to offer their workers. Employers have 267 insurance plan options grouped in four tiers. Plans in the platinum tier cover an estimated 90 percent of a person’s annual health costs; gold plans cover 80 percent; silver, 70 percent; and bronze 60 percent. DC Health Link features 48 platinum plans, 112 gold plans, 89 silver plans, and 18 bronze plans. Employers can offer their employees:
  • A choice of all of the plans and insurers in one tier, 
  • A choice of all of the plans offered by one insurer, or 
  • One plan through an insurer. 
These types of choices aren’t available today and won’t be available to small business owners in most states until 2015. DC Health Link will be one of the first health insurance exchanges to offer these choices and options for 2014.
 
“The number of choices is remarkable and the ability to offer workers competitive insurance options is unprecedented for most small companies,” said Barbara B. Lang, president and CEO of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. 
 
Until now, small companies frequently paid more for health insurance than their larger competitors. With the price transparency created by DC Health Link, insurers now are competing for employers’ business based on price and quality. Earlier this year, after insurers submitted their initial rates for DC Health Link, three came back and voluntarily lowered their rates to be more competitive in the new marketplace.
 
“Small businesses account for a large majority of jobs and are a key source of economic growth,” said Angela Franco, president and CEO of the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “We are very excited that starting October 1 small businesses, including those that are minority-owned, will be able to obtain more health insurance options at an affordable price.”
 
Many small companies use the services of insurance brokers to help them shop and choose health coverage, and DC Health Link will ensure those relationships continue and are made stronger by the creation of a web portal for brokers to go online to serve their clients’ needs. 
 
“Many restaurants rely on brokers to help them navigate the health insurance market. For very small operations, brokers serve as a de facto human resources director,” said Kathy Hollinger, president of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. “Greater access to brokers is another benefit of this new marketplace to restaurant owners throughout the District.”
 
“DC Health Link is open for business October 1.  I and my entire team look forward to serving the employer community,” said Mila Kofman, J.D., executive director of the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority.
 
To learn more, visit DCHealthLink.com.