Small Business Health Insurance Sign-Ups Still Slow

Last week, the health insurance exchanges for small businesses mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act opened to companies across the country, but so far it seems as though enrollment among such firms has been quite slow. While this was largely expected, it may nonetheless be a disappointment to those hoping the marketplaces to help companies find more affordable health coverage for their workers would be a success.

On Saturday, Nov. 15, the small business exchanges for all 50 states opened for companies, and while initial numbers haven’t yet been released, it seems that observers are finding enrollment slow, according to a report from CNBC. This actually comes as little surprise, because small businesses have long cited health insurance costs; concerns over how the federal government is regulating companies – especially smaller ones – with health insurance mandates these days seem to be having an impact on owners’ attitudes toward the idea.

“The level of concern is consistent for these business owners, and it’s not going away,” Michael Schneider, vice president of ADP’s corporate marketing, told the network. “The level of regulations coming at them – it’s tough to manage and keep up with that complexity.”

What else is going on?
The small business exchanges have been open – though not online – for the past year, and nationwide only about 12,000 companies (which employ a total of some 76,000 people) had actually enrolled, the report said. That number will go up with the ease of access created by the new marketplace websites, but experts say the jump won’t be all that significant. Instead, owners are likely to continue shopping through private means and will perhaps compare those costs to the ones available on the exchanges at some point in the near future, before the open enrollment period closes. Many companies might even just encourage their employees to start shopping for their own coverage on the individual health insurance exchanges.

Owners who want to free up as much money as possible to continue covering a large percentage of their employees’ health insurance costs might be able to do so by cutting expenses for other types of small business insurance. For instance, they may be able to find more affordable general liability insurance, they may be able to reduce those costs by as much as a few thousand dollars annually.