Health insurance coverage: Upcoming change in law will help small business

An upcoming change in Washington state law will soon make it easier for self-employed people to get health insurance coverage.

The change involves small-group coverage, which under state law in recent years has been defined as businesses of 2 to 50 employees. Small-group coverage generally does not require applicants to first pass a health screening.

One-person businesses, however, have had to seek coverage in the individual insurance market, where health screening is the norm. Coverage can be hard to find, particularly for people with pre-existing health problems.

By Oct. 1, 2010, state law will consider 1 person a “group” for insurance purposes. This means that sole proprietors, for example, will now be able to apply for group coverage.

The law includes provisions to ensure that the business is bona fide. Depending on the way the business is set up, applicants may have to:

• Show that the business has been their employer for at least the past 12 months.

• Show that at least 75 percent of their income has come from the business or trade. (For agricultural businesses, this requirement is 51 percent.)

The bill changing the law was state Senate Bill 6538. Similar provisions are included in the federal health reform legislation approved by Congress this spring, but those don’t take effect until 2014.

People interested in getting quotes or applying for this coverage should talk to an insurance agent or broker.

People needing help finding health insurance can also call the office of state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler at 1-800-562-6900.

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