Many States' Small Business Exchanges Not Ready for Oct. 1 Launch

Most states say they are ready to launch the open enrollment phase for their public health insurance exchanges on Oct. 1, but few of them are prepared to do the same for the marketplaces that are meant for small businesses, the Washington Post's "On Small Business" reports (Harrison, "On Small Business," Washington Post, 9/23).

On May 31, the administration confirmed in a final rule that it will delay for one year -- until 2015 -- an aspect of the Small Business Health Options Program because it is too complex for insurers to implement by 2014. Under the ACA, SHOP allows small businesses to offer either a single plan to all of their workers or select a benefit level and allow employees to choose among several plans offered at that level.

The delay applies only to the portion of SHOP in which employees can select from multiple plans. SHOP still will be available for small businesses to select a single plan for all of their workers as scheduled in 2014. The delay applies to businesses operating in the 33 states with federal or partnership health insurance exchanges, although the 17 states running their own insurance marketplace could enact a similar delay, the administration said (California Healthline, 6/3).

According to "On Small Business," most state officials have said they will move forward with their exchanges as a strategy to encourage competition in the insurance industry and drive costs down for employers and their workers. Still, some states have indicated that they are facing delays or have scaled back expectations about what their exchanges will be able to offer small businesses in 2014, "On Small Business" reports.

For example, Maryland -- in an effort to focus on rolling out its state-run public exchange -- recently announced that open enrollment in its SHOP exchange will be delayed until Jan. 1, 2014, with coverage taking effect in March.

Meanwhile in Washington state, only one insurer has expressed interest in offering coverage through the state's SHOP exchange, which will be available to residents in specific regions. This means that small businesses in some parts of the state will not have access to health insurance options next week and it is not clear whether they will have access to tax credits, according to "On Small Business."

However, some SHOP exchanges in other states are on schedule to open next week, officials say. For example, Washington, D.C.'s exchange is undergoing final tests before it is connected to a federal data hub designed to confirm consumers' eligibility for coverage, according to DC Health Link Executive Director Mila Kofman ("On Small Business," Washington Post, 9/23).  


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