With healthcare insurance exchanges opening across the country on Oct. 1, employers should prepare for the costs involved with implementing business-wide health insurance policies. Business owners can calculate their insurance expenses by using budgeting software to find the best plans for themselves and their employees.

While some businesses are worried that employer-provided healthcare can cut into company profits, others see it as a way to increase their competitiveness in the market. Providing health insurance as part of a benefits package can attract qualified and skilled labor.

"We'll see it on an industry-by-industry basis," Ben Isgur, director of the Health Research Institute at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told Houston Business Journal. "If you're a company that is going to start providing insurance to employees, that's going to give you a competitive edge."

When potential job candidates are choosing between two similar companies, the one that provides health coverage may have the upper hand.

Before implementing measures of the Affordable Care Act, companies can plan ahead and research which policies are right for their unique business.

To help business owners make choices about which insurance plan to purchase, the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) provides a web portal to view options and apply for insurance. This site can help employers compare plans and research what kind of benefits are offered before determining employee premiums. Plans under SHOP offers employees coverage to help pay for doctor's visits, medications and even treat pre-existing conditions and provide preventative care.

Determine if a business qualifies for healthcare tax benefits
In paying for insurance, business owners can take advantage of a tax credit extend to entrepreneurs who pay up to 50 percent of premium costs. The tax credit recoups 50 percent of an employer's contribution to their employees' costs. Employers who are tax-exempt can cover 35 percent of premium costs.

"For business owners who choose to receive coverage through the SHOP Marketplace," according to the Healthcare.gov site, "the tax credit is highest for companies with fewer than 10 employees who are paid an average of $25,000 or less. The smaller the business, the bigger the credit."

Small businesses are eligible to receive the tax credit if they have fewer than 25 full-time employees who make an average of approximately $50,000 a year or less and pay at least 50 percent of employee premium costs.

In preparation for the opening of insurance exchanges on Oct. 1, businesses can use forecasting software to calculate expected health care-related costs.