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DC Health Link Expands Small Business Health Insurance Options During COVID-19 Crisis

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Washington, DC­­ –Today, the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority (DCHBX) Executive Board voted to adopt a unanimous recommendation from its Standing Advisory Board to extend DC Health Link’s small business open enrollment policy through calendar year 2022. This action taken by the Executive Board enables small businesses to offer group coverage even if they can’t afford to pay 50% of their employees’ premium, or they have fewer than two-thirds of eligible employees enrolling. Usually, to be eligible for coverage an employer must contribute at least 50% to employees’ premiums (called contribution requirement) and have two-thirds of employees enroll in coverage (called participation requirement). The Board's action today increases opportunities for District small businesses and non-profits to offer group health insurance to their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has hit District small businesses especially hard,” said Khalid Pitts, M.P.H., DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority Executive Board Member. “We want to make sure District small businesses have as many options as possible so that their employees have access to quality affordable health insurance coverage. As a small business owner myself, I know first-hand that budgets are extremely tight right now and that small businesses need all the flexibility they can get.”

Last January, the DCHBX Executive Board approved a resolution expanding opportunities for District small businesses and non-profits to offer health insurance coverage to their employees without having to meet the contribution and participation requirements in 2020. Both the contribution and participation requirements apply throughout the year except during an annual open enrollment period only available for employers beginning their health plan on January 1 and not available for health coverage that starts during other months. Last January, DCHBX Board waived contribution and participation rules for all new enrollments in 2020. Today, the Board extended that flexibility through 2022.

District small businesses and nonprofits can now offer group health insurance even when they can’t contribute 50% to the premium or meet the participation requirements. This flexibility will continue through calendar year 2022. DCHBX will implement a monitoring plan to analyze the effect of this three-year demonstration on the DC Health Link marketplace.

“As a Standing Advisory Board Member and a health insurance broker in the District, I am a strong advocate for extending the SHOP open enrollment time period to 2022,” said Margarita Dilone, a member of the DCHBX Standing Advisory Board, DC small business owner, and health insurance broker. “As I discussed at the Standing Advisory Board meeting—as did fellow broker Janice Davis—with the economic distress caused by COVID-19, this flexibility creates an opportunity for small businesses to offer coverage and financially support their employees’ health needs at a time when they need it most.”

Currently there are more than 5,100 employers covering more than 80,000 employees and dependents through DC Health Link. DC Health Link offers 156 health plans from Aetna, CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente, and United HealthCare. Free expert help is available from more than 800 DC Health Link health insurance brokers.

Click here to read the DCHBX Executive Board SHOP Open Enrollment resolution.

All DC Health Link health insurers cover COVID-19 diagnosis, testing, and treatment without any cost-sharing (no deductibles, no coinsurance, and no copays). This applies to all levels of coverage, including HSA-compatible high deductible health plans.

For more information about DC Health Link and Coronavirus, visit www.dchealthlink.com/coronavirus. DC Health Link enrollees can find a useful and easy to read summary chart on this dedicated webpage highlighting how DC Health Link health insurers cover COVID-19 related services.