ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland's health exchange board approved a plan Monday to allow eligible small businesses to begin offering employees small group health plans and to access federal tax credits in April, but the state is pushing back the launch of a website for the program until Jan. 1, 2015.
The delay puts Maryland's Small Business Health Options Program Exchange on the same timeline as the federal government. It was initially set to open in October, but was delayed until January to fix technical problems. Still, state officials said certified plans and access to tax credits worth up to 50 percent of the employer's contribution toward employee premium costs, will be available directly through carriers, third party administrators and brokers starting on April 1.
"Maryland small businesses will be able to access tax credits to help them cover the cost of health coverage for their employees," said Carolyn Quattrocki, interim executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.
Employers may be eligible for the federal tax credit if they have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees making an average of about $50,000 a year or less and cover at least 50 percent of the cost of single health care coverage for each of its employees, the state exchange said.
There are 13 companies offering qualified health plans that have been approved for sale on Maryland's SHOP Exchange. They include Aetna Health Insurance Inc.; Aetna Life Insurance; CareFirst BlueChoice; CareFirst of Maryland; Group Hospitalization and Medical Services Inc.; Coventry Health and Life Insurance Co.; Coventry Health Care of Delaware; Evergreen Health Cooperative; Kaiser Foundation Health Plan; MAMSI Life and Health Insurance Co.; Optimum Choice; UnitedHealthcare Insurance Co.; and United Healthcare of the Mid-Atlantic.
Maryland's exchange for individuals had computer problems on the day it opened Oct. 1. Lawmakers in the House of Delegates are scheduled to vote on an emergency measure Tuesday to open up a separate insurance pool as a backup plan to cover people retroactive to Jan. 1 for those who tried to enroll for coverage by the first of the year but couldn't due to website problems.