The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Wednesday that online enrollment for the federally-run Small Business SHOP Marketplace (HealthCare.gov) would be delayed until November 2014. Small businesses wanting small group health coverage through the SHOP will need to enroll via paper application through a certified health insurance producer.
According to the HHS release on November 27, 2013, "For small businesses in states with a SHOP Marketplace that’s run by the federal government, we are making changes to make sure that you can take advantage of SHOP coverage and the tax credit as soon as possible. Specifically, for 2014, small employers will enroll their employees in coverage through an agent, broker, or insurer that offers a certified SHOP plan and has agreed to conduct enrollment according to HHS standards."
Good News - Bad News For Producers
While the delay seems like all bad news for health insurance producers hoping to sell SHOP small group plans, it's not all bad news. Small businesses still have the option to purchase coverage through SHOP, but they will not be able to do so online. Instead, the small businesses must apply through certified producers. This delay makes health insurance producers more central in the process, and is similar to how small employers purchase small group coverage today.
What Producers and Small Businesses Need to Know
The Small Business section of HealthCare.gov is still up and running to view coverage options, print a SHOP application, and learn about the SHOP Marketplace. It's expected that later this winter HealthCare.gov will have an interactive tool to enter the ages of employees and get more precise premium information.
Until November 2014, enrollment in small group plans will be “direct enrollment” through an agent, broker, or insurer.
The SHOP Marketplace will notify small businesses about eligibility (for the small business tax credits) by phone or e-mail and by regular mail.
If small businesses want employees’ coverage to begin on January 1, the current enrollment deadline is December 23.
Small businesses can enroll in a SHOP Marketplace plan at any time during the year. If employee enrollments are submitted between the 1st and 15th day of the month, the group coverage begins the first day of the next month.
This is one of many delays in the small business SHOP Marketplace. These delays, along with other factors, contribute to most small businesses passing up the SHOP Marketplace for individual health insurance exchanges and defined contribution (see this article).
What are your thoughts or questions about the most recent SHOP delay? Leave a comment below.