The exchanges created as part of the Affordable Care Act's individual coverage mandate are set to open in every state in the union just days from now on October 1, but the federal government recently announced yet another delay that could massively impact small business owners and their companies' preparedness.
Companies with relatively small numbers of employees who wanted to use federal marketplaces to find affordable health insurance for their workers were supposed to be able to enroll in the Small Business Health Option Program (or "SHOP") exchanges starting on October 1, when individual enrollment begins, according to a report from CNN. However, they will now have to wait another month to do so; until that time, they will only be able to view the options they will have available to them when the SHOP exchanges open. Moreover, they will also not be able to view those options side-by-side simultaneously, as the functionality of that feature is still being finalized.
"Small businesses will be able to participate in the SHOP beginning on October 1 to evaluate their coverage options," Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told the news agency. "In November, small businesses will be able to enroll in coverage options, well ahead of when coverage begins on January 1."
At the same time, though, DHHS says it will work with the U.S. Small Business Administration and a number of private industry organizations to help reach a larger number of independent employers which may not be aware of their options with relation to the SHOP exchanges, the report said. For instance, companies may enroll in them only on a monthly basis. This stands in stark contrast with the requirements for consumers who sign up for them, as they can only sign up for coverage through such a marketplace during what are known as "open enrollment" periods.
It should further be noted, though, that this delay is only going to impact companies in states where the federal government is running the exchanges, the report said. States that have decided to operate their own will be in charge of getting them to full functionality.
Many small business owners worried about how ACA requirements will affect their companies may want to do more to ensure their costs are manageable by finding more affordable types of other small business insurance, including liability insurance. Doing so will likely give them more flexibility going forward.