Choice in the insurance-policy marketplace is another issue that’s expected to change (with the network of state-level insurance exchanges, slated for 2014).

“The exchanges will make buying insurance a lot easier for small-business owners,” says Terry Gardiner, national policy director for the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Small Business Majority (www.smallbusinessmajority.org).

“The exchanges will negotiate with insurance companies and come up with the best deals they can find,” says Gardiner. “All the employer will have to do is say, ‘Here is the amount I will contribute toward premiums and here is the employee share.’ The employees can then go to the exchanges and select what plan they want.” Policies will be available for each of five benefit tier levels.

The carriers will want to market their insurance policies through the exchanges because of the vast pool of customers they represent, Gardiner says.

Bottom line: “Small employers will be able to offer choice instead of a single plan – at reduced administrative costs – so they can become more competitive with big-business competitors.”

The exchanges would provide a standardized process to make it easier to go online and select plans, says Nowicki. “And while the competition will theoretically make insurance cheaper, it’s hard to say whether it will in actuality.”