Few Small Businesses Coming to Government’s Health Insurance Exchange

As part of the roll-out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, there were plans for a small business health insurance exchange to be enacted, but these ran into numerous difficulties. And while the state versions of Small Business Health Options Program exchange are in some cases now open – albeit in a limited capacity – it seems that few companies it was designed to help are actually getting involved in them.

This comes even as experts point out that consumers’ exchanges are seeing rapid upticks in enrollment, but it’s businesses that are most likely to be able to benefit from signing up, according to a report from the Washington Post. Part of the problem, though, seems to be that the Obama administration has twice delayed the date by which companies with 50 or more employees had to begin offering their full-time workers coverage, and that the exchange for businesses simply do not work as well or quickly as its consumer-focused counterpart; once businesses register with the exchange, it is then incumbent upon their employees to sign up for the marketplace as well, then go through a number of plans pre-approved by their employers.

On a more granular level
Perhaps most telling is the way in which individual exchanges are working, the report said. For instance, in Washington, D.C., fewer than 300 people have signed up for coverage through small businesses despite the fact that close to 10,000 companies in that city alone have signed up for it. Some experts say that this potentially reflect a problem of promotion, rather than eagerness.

“We have been very focused on the individual side, more so than on the small-group side,” Mila Kofman, executive director for the city’s health-insurance exchange, called DC Health Link, told the newspaper. “I expect our small-business numbers to pick up significantly once we shift our internal focus from the individual exchange to the small-business exchange. It’s all about resources and deadlines.”

Meanwhile, Maryland hasn’t even opened its small business exchange because of its focus on the individual exchange, the report said. It has pushed back availability of the exchange three times already, and now companies will have to wait until November to sign up.

Owners who are concerned about the ways in which their companies will afford health care costs going forward may want to look at their other small business insurance policies as a means of cutting expenses. More affordable commercial insurance, for example, could save companies thousands annually that can be devoted elsewhere.