Obamacare’s Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchanges were touted as a way that small-business owners could find affordable, flexible health coverage for their employees and receive a nice tax break.
New reports, though, suggest that not many businesses are signing up.
Enrollment in the SHOP exchanges has been “modest” so far, according to The Hill. That’s likely in part because the Obama administration announced in November that the federal SHOP exchange, which about three dozen states rely on, wouldn’t be fully functional until 2015. (The SHOP program, which is currently only available to businesses with 50 or fewer employees, has been plagued with numerous delays.)
Still, the administration had claimed that businesses would embrace SHOP, despite the delays, because they can access SHOP coverage through an insurance broker—as many small businesses use brokers. Moreover, it claimed that the enhanced tax break provided to businesses that enroll in SHOP—up to 50 percent the premiums paid, compared with a maximum 35 percent for non-SHOP plans—would entice businesses to enroll.
It’s possible that business owners will start enrolling in SHOP in droves later this year. Businesses don’t have Obamacare enrollment deadlines, like consumers do. And many businesses renewed their health insurance in 2013 to take advantage of a loophole that allowed them to keep coverage that’s non-compliant with the Affordable Care Act through 2014. So they might turn to SHOP when they’re up for renewal again later this year.
Not everyone is convinced, however.
Rep. Sam Graves (R-Missouri), chairman of the House Small Business Committee, sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Thursday seeking enrollment details on both the federal- and state-run SHOP exchanges. He wrote that he’s “concerned” about the delays affecting small-business owners during the Obamacare rollout:
Specifically, I am interested in the numbers of small businesses and number of employees in each state who have enrolled and paid at least their first premium. If you do not have numbers for those who have paid at least their first premium, please provide the numbers of small businesses and employees who have enrolled in the federal and in each state exchange. Please also provide the date by which you anticipate federal and state SHOP online enrollment to be fully operational.
Graves requested a response from Sebelius by February 7.
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