Small Business Exchanges Already Having Problems?

The federal government recently allowed a small number of states to gain early access to its small business health insurance exchanges as a way of spotting potential issues before the broader rollout later this month. Now, it seems as though that might have been a prudent decision, as there have reportedly been more than a few issues on these marketplace sites discovered just in the last week.

One of the biggest issues that many small business owners in the five states which were given early access – Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, and Ohio – reported that when they went on the site in search of specific insurance plans, they were nowhere to be found, despite the fact that they were already approved for sale through the exchanges, according to a report from the New York Times. In addition, the Small Business Health Options Program (or SHOP) sites were likewise difficult to navigate in certain web browsers; it seems to have been optimized for Google’s Chrome, but Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox experienced difficulties.

Other issues persist as well, even when plans are listed and the site works as designed, the report said. For instance, some premiums and other associated costs are listed as percentages in certain situations, rather than dollar amounts. Further, subscribers have found themselves listed as dependents, and dependents as subscribers, which can complicate the buying process unnecessarily.

What’s being done?
The federal government obviously wants to do all in its power to avoid another problematic rollout of one of its insurance exchange sites, which is why it launched the early enrollment in five states in the first place, the report said. The issues are being flagged and worked on diligently with an eye toward getting more or less everything squared away before the broader enrollment period for the remaining 45 states plus the District of Columbia.

However, it should be noted that enrollment ahead of that period has remained relatively low, the report said. In most states, only small numbers of companies, insuring a few thousand people in many cases, are even signed up right now, which could be problematic.

Companies that are interested in saving money on their small business insurance policies might also want to consider the savings they can find through other types of coverage. For instance, more affordable errors and omissions insurance could end up saving them thousand of dollars annually.