The Obama Administration has been telling reporters that it only expects “modest” enrollment figures for the federal Small business Health Option Program (SHOP) exchanges in 2014, according to reports. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) attributes this primarily to the HealthCare.gov failings and the fact that the website will be down until later this year, although small employers can still enroll via agents or brokers.
The SHOP exchanges are the small business side of the federal Exchange, where employers with under 50 employees can enroll to find allegedly cheaper insurance options due to the larger marketplace. Because of technology issues, the requirement to have the SHOP exchanges operational has been extended until 2015 but the Administration is still hoping to begin enrolling a number of small businesses in the Exchange this year. SHOP exchanges and the small employer subsidies are just two aspects of the Affordable Care Act aimed at reducing an employer’s cost of providing insurance to employees as well as helping workers meet the insurance individual mandate.
The early failure to enroll a large number of small employers has caught the attention of Congressional Republicans, with House Small Business Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) this week issuing a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the progress of the SHOP exchanges. The letter asks for information on how many small business and employees have been enrolled in the federal and state SHOP exchanges in light of the number of delays the Administration has already granted. In the letter, Graves states,
Although the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) health insurance exchanges opened on October 1, 2013, as you know, many features of the SHOP exchanges have been delayed. Small businesses are currently not able to shop for, select and enroll in health insurance plans in the online SHOP exchanges. As Chairman of the Committee on Small Business, I continue to be concerned about the ongoing misinformation, problems and delays that are affecting small business owners as the health care law is implemented.