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OMEN Answering Small Biz Health Care Questions

Health care insurance has long been confusing, and the troubled rollout of Cover Oregon hasn’t clarified much. But Jan. 10, the Oregon Microenterprise Network (OMEN) will visit NEDCO offices in Springfield to listen to small business owners and help answer questions about buying health care for employees.

“Our goal is to help our members understand this process,” says OMEN Executive Director Marilyn Johnson-Hartzog, adding that the free session is open to all. She says the small business portal of the Cover Oregon website, which is not yet functional, is designed to let employers make apples-to-apples comparisons of different health care plans and lower administration costs.

The Affordable Care Act doesn’t require organizations with fewer than 50 full-time employees to provide health insurance, but some do in order to reduce turnover and for ethical reasons. Buying through Cover Oregon also makes small businesses eligible for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. The tax credit’s maximum raises in 2014 to 50 percent of premium payments made by small business employers. According to the IRS website, smaller businesses generally get a bigger tax break.

“The ship has not sailed, it’s just that the business owners have been put on hold,” Johnson-Hartzog says. She notes that even OMEN is affected by Cover Oregon’s technical difficulties. “We renewed the current plan that we had,” she says, but OMEN will cancel its coverage and buy through Cover Oregon when it becomes functional.

Michael Cox, a communications specialist with Cover Oregon, says there’s not yet a target date for releasing SHOP, the small group portal for buying health care coverage.

The session will be held at NEDCO’s offices at 212 Main St., Spfd., 1 to 2:30 pm Jan. 10. OMEN asks for RVSPs to the event by Jan. 8 to taylor@omenetwork.org.