Story First Appeared in Crain's Detroit Business.
It's Oct. 1. Do you know where your Michigan Health Insurance Marketplace is?
Today – depending on your political viewpoint – is either the beginning of the government takeover of the health insurance industry or an opportunity for you to shop for (hopefully) lower cost and (possibly) subsidized health insurance.
Without further adieu, click here to begin the online health insurance application process that federal officials say will only take about 30 minutes to complete.
There are a lot of details for people to remember about the health insurance exchange. There also has been a lot of debate about whether the U.S., individuals or small businesses can afford it or not afford it.
But here is the bottom line: A 2009 study by Harvard University concluded that lack of health insurance coverage contributes heavily to at least 45,000 preventable deaths per year.
In other words, people without health insurance had a 40 percent higher risk of death than those with private insurance, primarily because they were unable to receive timely medical care.
In Michigan, about half of the state's estimated 1.2 million uninsured people earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, the federal-state program that serves low-income folks and families.
Many of those uninsured also earn too little to purchase health insurance in today's current market. Some, of course, especially the "young and invincible," just choose to roll the dice and hope they don't get seriously sick or injured.
Today and over the next six months of open enrollment, you have a chance to check out the prices, the benefits and the relative ease of shopping for health insurance online.
Or you can continue what you are doing, include being uninsured, and next April pay a $95 fine on your 2013 tax form for not having a health insurance policy.
The fine increases over three years until it caps out at $695 per year, or 2.5 percent of gross household income.
While small businesses under 50 can start the application process on Oct. 1 to cover their employees, the online function of the exchange won't go live until Nov. 1.
Check with your insurance agent or broker for how to sign up with the small business health option program, or SHOP.
Or go online. Many business associations in Michigan have developed informational websites to help small companies learn how to begin offering health insurance.
Warren-based Michigan Business and Professional Association has created a Small Business Health Care Reform Guide.
The Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce also offers MI Health Answers to give members and nonmembers access to health care experts in Michigan and nationally on how to implement Obamacare.
The Small Business Association of Michigan has launched Decision Point. It is free to SBAM members enrolled in an SBAM-sponsored health plan and $50 for members who are not. Nonmembers are charged $250 to join the association and access Decision Point.
The Michigan Department of Financial and Insurance Services also has created a handy consumer guide for those who wish to learn more on how to pick a health insurance plan.
The U.S. Small Business Administration also is offering a free Webinar series to teach entrepreneurs what the health care law means for their business.
On the federal level, the Small Business Majority also has an online resource called the Health Coverage Guide.
"We've been focused on educating small businesses about this law since it went into effect," John Arensmeyer, CEO of the Small Business Majority, said in a statement.
"There's been so much rhetoric and political gamesmanship around the law, but what small businesses really want and need is the facts so they know what to do to comply with, and even benefit from, (the) provisions."
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