As a small business owner you provide group health insurance to your employees or provide them funds through a defined contribution strategy to purchase individual coverage. Both these options are available through your Chamber’s Private Insurance Exchange managed by USI Affinity.

Do you know someone who has never had insurance and doesn’t know where to start? A friend whose son is turning 26 this year and moving off his parent’s coverage? Or a family member who has recently lost her job and her employer-provided health insurance coverage? Here is some information you can share with friends or loved ones who don’t have health insurance.

Health Insurance Is Important 
Health insurance gives people access to preventive care services that help them stay healthy. It also helps pay for care when people are sick or injured. Uninsured people often don’t get the preventive care they need and use hospital emergency departments when they get sick. With health insurance, people can get the care they need at the right time. Health insurance plans cover doctors, medication and hospital visits.

Coverage Is Better than Ever
Now people are able to get coverage even if they have a pre-existing condition that kept them from getting health insurance in the past. And most health plans will cover a broad range of services called Essential Health Benefits. These include services like hospital stays, maternity care, prescriptions and emergency care. Health plans will also fully cover most preventive services, like wellness exams, screenings and immunizations. This means people don’t have to pay anything extra when they visit the doctor for preventive care.

Coverage Is Now Required 
Most U.S. citizens and legal residents need to have health insurance. People can get coverage through a job, buy it on their own or get it from a government program like Medicaid or Medicare.

Those Who Don’t Have Insurance Will Pay
Those who don’t have health insurance coverage may have to pay a tax penalty. The penalty this year is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child. For most families that means a penalty of $285 or one percent of income, whichever is more. The penalty goes up every year. Add to that having to pay the full cost of medication, emergency room visits and other medical services, and it’s clear that it doesn’t pay to go without insurance.

It’s More Affordable than Ever 
There are many health plans that can meet your needs and budget. For those who are in good health and don’t need medical care often, there are plans that have lower monthly premium costs but more out-of-pocket cost for medical services. For those who need a lot of medical care, there are plans that have a higher monthly premium cost, but offer lower costs per service. There is also a federal tax credit that can lower the monthly premium. And there is other cost-sharing assistance available for those who qualify. Depending on their situation, some people may even be eligible for a $0 premium plan after the tax credit.

Let your friends and family without insurance know that the open enrollment period for 2015 coverage is from Nov. 15, 2014, through Feb. 15, 2015. Those who do not currently have health insurance and need coverage before 2015 can check to see if they qualify for a special enrollment period. People who have had a life-changing event may qualify for this special early enrollment. Some examples of qualifying events include turning 26 and losing coverage that was on a family member’s plan, losing coverage due to job loss, changing marital status, or having or adopting a baby.

It’s easy to get more information at  or call 800-265-2876 x6

The information provided here is only a brief summary of some aspects of current health care reform law. It is not intended to be an exhaustive description of the law or a legal opinion on the law.