Business owners hoping to get group insurance coverage for their employees on the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchanges will have to wait longer than expected.
Recent Congressional testimony revealed that the SHOP exchanges won't go live until late November, even though Obama administration officials had reported that they'd be up and running by November 1. That will give business owners very little time to consider and sign up for 2014 plans that need to take effect on January 1.
Critics of Obamacare said the new SHOP exchange delays are another sign that the federal health care reform isn’t ready for prime time. "This law's rocky enrollment rollout is creating more stress and uncertainty for many Americans and small businesses, and this latest confusion adds to a growing list of frustrations,” Missouri Republican Rep. Sam Graves, chair of the House Small Business Committee, said in a news release.
Given the many delays the SHOP exchanges have faced, many benefits advisors are telling clients to give up on shopping on the SHOP exchanges this year and either hold on to their current health insurance plans—assuming the policies aren't canceled—or to shop around for plans on the private market, according to Reuters.
Small employers with fewer than five or 10 employees may be giving up on SHOP altogether and opting to drop coverage, sending their employees to the individual exchanges, according to Employee Benefits News. These employers can save thousands of dollars while knowing that their employees can buy coverage on the exchange.
Another trend sees some small companies choosing to move to defined-benefit health plans. They give their workers a set dollar amount to spend on health insurance and other benefits and then send them to a private exchange to find coverage. The North Carolina Chamber of Commerce is so confident that businesses will adopt this approach, in fact, that it’s launching its own private exchange.
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