A large number of entrepreneurs across the country were likely looking forward to the opening of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s mandated health insurance exchanges because they were looking to reduce their small business insurance costs. However, as has been publicized heavily in the past several weeks, there have been numerous problems in implementing these marketplaces, particularly where small businesses are concerned.
Originally, of course, the plan was for the ACA’s Small Business Health Options Program (more popularly known as SHOP) exchanges to be ready to go at the same time as those for consumers, even as the Obama administration delayed by one year the requirement that all companies with 50 or more employees must provide those workers with health insurance, according to a report from Bloomberg Businessweek. Unfortunately for these companies, the ability to sign up online has not yet been provided to them, and it’s beginning to look as though that option won’t be available by the end of November, which was recently stated by White House officials as being a goal for the exchanges.
A complicated process
Instead, owners still have to fill out their applications for coverage and send them in by mail, after going onto the Healthcare.gov website and downloading the necessary forms, the report said. That includes setting up an online account, which doesn’t allow owners or other small business decision-makers to easily search for the kinds of coverage that might be available to them; filling out those forms, meanwhile, is only to determine the company’s eligibility for participation in the exchanges. Once they receive word from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that they can indeed participate, they can then go back online to select the plans for their workers.
“We are exploring options to ensure that small businesses have access to coverage in the SHOP marketplace,” HHS spokeswoman Julie Bataille said on a conference call with reporters Monday, according to the news agency. “We are continuing to do an assessment of that work, and we’ll have a process in place by the end of this month.”
Many small business owners may be able to reduce their other insurance costs by seeking out more affordable coverage options for policies including workers’ compensation or general liability insurance. Doing so can free up as many as thousands of dollars per year, which can then be devoted to other pressing company needs, including health insurance coverage.