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Affordable health insurance on the way for New Hampshire small businesses, workers

Small businesses are the backbone of our communities. And in an economy where small businesses create two-thirds of jobs, owners and employees deserve a health insurance market with fairer prices, better choices and greater certainty.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, that market is on its way.

Beginning in 2014, New Hampshire small-business owners will have access to a new health insurance marketplace - which opens for enrollment on Oct. 1 - that will allow them to make side-by-side comparisons to find a plan that fits their budget and that's right for their businesses and employees. Each marketplace will operate a Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, where employers will be able to choose from a range of affordable plans to offer their employees.

And while many small business owners have questions about the employer responsibility provision, it is important to note that businesses with fewer than 50 employees - that's 96 percent of small businesses - are not required to purchase insurance.

Of the remaining 4 percent of small businesses with more than 50 employees, most already provide insurance. So the number of businesses that will have to begin offering employee health insurance or pay a penalty is very small.

Small businesses are also seeing savings thanks to new tax credits available to help them cover their employees. Many small businesses with 25 or fewer employees have already received a tax credit of up to 35 percent of their health insurance costs. For example, Mark Robinson, owner of Nashua-based Handicapped Pets Inc., made the business decision that providing health insurance for his team is a must - the health of his business relies on the health of his team. It was his accountant who advised him of the tax credits, enabling him to save more than $2,000.

"The tax credit wasn't huge, but as a small business any savings is appreciated," Robinson said.

And beginning in 2014, this tax credit will go up to 50 percent. According to an IRS 2009 report, in New Hampshire alone there may be more than 22,600 small businesses that may be eligible for tax credits.

No business owner wants to drop coverage for their employees. For many, their employees are like a family. For others, offering health insurance is critical to attracting the kind of workers they need to succeed.

Thankfully, starting in January 2014, employers will have many more options. To learn more about the health insurance marketplace, visit: or

Christie L. Hager is regional director for U.S. Health and Human Services. Jeanne A. Hulit is acting New England regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration.