The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that the federally-facilitated Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace launched in Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, and Ohio. While small businesses in these states will not be able to purchase policies until open enrollment on November 15, 2014, the early launch will allow for small businesses, agents, and brokers to try out pre-enrollment SHOP features.
Background on the SHOP Marketplace
As part of the ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplaces, there is an option for small businesses called the SHOP Marketplace. This is a new way for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees to purchase a traditional group health insurance plan.
Part of the appeal of the SHOP Marketplace is the eligibility for the small business tax credit. The small business tax credit was created to assist small businesses in providing health insurance coverage to employees.
The tax credit is worth up to 50 percent of a small business’ contribution toward employees’ premium costs; however, the eligibility requirements for the credit can be quite stringent. In addition, the IRS just announced that there will be a reduction in the small business health care tax credit for tax-exempt employers.
Early SHOP Access Available to Small Businesses
The announcement by Rhett Buttle, Director of Private Sector Engagement, stated that the early access launched Monday in Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, and Ohio.
Although the open enrollment period will not officially begin until November 15, 2014, small employers in the five states that were granted early access will be able to use Healthcare.gov to:
Establish a Marketplace SHOP account
Assign a health insurance agent or broker to their account
Complete an employer eligibility application
Obtain an eligibility determination from the federally-facilitated SHOP
Upload an employee roster
Browse plans and pricing when they become available
According to the announcement, the Administration held events in the five early access states to receive feedback from the small business representatives, agents, brokers, and assisters who participated throughout the month of October.
In addition, Buttle says that being on the ground in each of the five states has allowed them to offer small business owners, employees, agents, and brokers hands-on technical training. Buttle said that “many small businesses, and their agents and brokers, liked the new features and were eager to learn and spread the word about the new way to browse, compare, and enroll their employees online.”