Greenhouse operator Kathye Rietkerk of Fontana said she has been following the details of the new health care law and what it may mean for her business, which has provided health care insurance to employees since the 1980s.
"I'm not required to buy health insurance because I'm not big enough, and I'm not small enough to get any of the tax benefits, so I'm in the middle," Rietkerk said.
It is difficult to predict what will happen when the law becomes effective next year, she said, as the exchange comes on board and insurance companies restructure their offerings. Rietkerk said she will evaluate the cost structure of health insurance offerings to see how her business may be affected.
The state of California is setting up its health benefit exchange, called Covered California. The exchange is intended to be a new insurance marketplace where individuals and small businesses can compare rates and coverage options to determine if they qualify for health insurance tax credits.
"For small businesses, we're opening a new marketplace at the same time to give them access to health care choices for their employees," said Oscar Hidalgo, spokesman for Covered California. "Anyone can enroll through the exchange, but the only way to obtain a federal tax credit applied towards your premium and your policy is through the exchange."
Open enrollment for individuals and small businesses to purchase plans through the exchange begins in October and will continue through March. Hidalgo said Covered California is developing an education campaign and a call center where individuals and small businesses can call for assistance. At the end of this month, the exchange plans to launch www.covered.ca.com, a website where people can find information on how to prepare.
To help agricultural employers understand the new health care mandates, the Farm Employers Labor Service will offer seminars for Farm Bureau members and FELS subscribers starting Jan. 25 at the Yolo County Farm Bureau office in Woodland. Other seminars are scheduled Feb. 25 in Fresno at the county Farm Bureau office, and April 5 in Salinas at the Monterey County Farm Bureau office. To learn more about the seminars, see http://fels.net/seminar or call 800-753-9073.