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SHOPping for Health Insurance? May Be Slim Pickings

Small business owners who have been waiting to purchase health insurance through the Small Business Options Program (SHOP) exchanges for 2015 may find their selection of plans to be limited to one plan only. Although these small business exchanges will officially open for business in November, not all will offer a broad selection of plans.

The ACA established the new online SHOP exchanges to enable small business owners to purchase health insurance plans for their employees. These exchanges were created to permit small business owners to buy similar coverage as a larger entity to take advantage of the benefits that employees of large companies enjoy. Although some SHOP exchanges were open for the 2014 plan year, because of technical glitches, the federal government delayed the requirement that they be open for online applications until November.

The government is planning to operate the SHOP exchanges for 32 states. Given the technological requirements inherent in providing multiple plans for so many states, only 14 states within the federally administered exchanges will offer more than one plan in November. The remaining 18 states will have only one plan for 2015. While exchanges are expected to eventually present multiple plans to small business owners, these 18 states have been granted a transition year to accommodate new administrative requirements. Insurance carriers are expected to begin testing their plans on the exchanges by October.

What options are available to a small business owner if the SHOP exchange is a state run exchanage? That depends on the state. It’s most likely that there will be multiple plans for the small business owner. But these exchanges vary from state to state, so visit the state’s SHOP site for up-to-date information.

Stay tuned. The deadline for full service SHOP exchanges has been moved by the government more than once.

For additional information, contact EAB HealthWorks.