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NOARK President Tracey Kenny Farmer was featured in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette earlier this month, after attending a forum about changes in employee health insurance plans under Obamacare. You can read the full article below:

Employers gained a clearer understanding of how they will administer changes in employee health-insurance plans under Obamacare during a forum with the Arkansas Insurance Department on Friday.

Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford said roughly 500,000 uninsured Arkansans will gain health coverage if the new federal law works the way its supposed to.

People say we are against the Affordable Care Act - Obamacare, he told a few dozen employers, health-care providers and others who turned out for Friday afternoons forum at the Center for Nonprofits in Rogers.

The Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the event, designed to help the public and businesses better understand how the state will implement a health-benefits exchange.

Arkansas will operate a federally facilitated exchange, rather than a statebased exchange as some other states have opted to do.

We are going to try to link to that federal exchange, Bradford said.

When the coverage year for all exchanges begins Jan. 1, 2014, Americans will find they cannot be denied health insurance coverage because of any pre-existing condition, according to literature the department provided the audience on how the U.S. Supreme Courts decision on Obamacare affects the insured.

They wont be charged a higher premium because of their sex, and Medicarebeneficiaries whove experienced gaps in prescriptiondrug coverage will see those gaps eliminated.

Representatives of area businesses and their personnel departments had plenty of questions on how theyd navigate the changes for their employees coverage during the hour-long forum.

Tracey Kenny, human resources manager at Rockline Industries in Springdale, asked several questions, and said afterward she found the answers very helpful.

She came to the forum already possessing some information on the new law and how it would affect individuals.

But not how the exchange would work, Kenny said.

For instance, she and others learned that an employees contribution to their insurance plan cant be more than 9.5 percent of their wages.

Cynthia Crone, a director in the departments effort to set up a health benefits exchange partnership, told those in attendance while the employees total household income would be factored in, they wouldnt be required to find out the rest of the employees family members income for this purpose.

That wouldnt be your responsibility, Crone said, adding that the IRS has a specific means to estimate household income for the health law that differs somewhat from the way it calculates peoples taxes.

Another questioner wondered what would happen if an insurance consumers estimated income changed substantially, upsetting the 9.5 percent contribution ratio.

The person has a responsibility to report if they have a change, Crone said, citing lottery winnings as an example.

She said, in response to one question, that some employers have wondered about a $3,000 penalty theyve heard about if they dont provide the required affordable insurance.Some have wondered if this would be a single penalty or if theres a multiplier effect.

If an employee goes to the exchange to get a subsidy because he or she couldnt get affordable coverage as defined in the law, Crone said, the $3,000 penalty is triggered, but its only one penalty per person denied affordable coverage.

Bradford hopes the new law will bring more insurance companies into the state seeking the added business, providing more choices for consumers through the increased competition.

When they do, Bradford doesnt plan to send them to individual counties for negotiations. Instead, he would negotiate with them to cover a group of counties that included a mix of urban and rural populations.

For instance, Bradford said, all the companies would be interested in Northwest Arkansas, a growing region thats becoming more urbanized.

The new law will give small businesses the option of competing with bigger businesses in hiring the most sought-after employees with their new ability to offer health coverage as a benefit, Bradford and Crone said. The law will allow small business to join insurance risk pools of thousands of beneficiaries.

Crone noted that the act will successively expand the definition of small business from the current 50 employees-and-under standard.

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