Small Businesses Still Staying Away from Federal Exchanges

For some time now, the individual health insurance exchanges mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have dominated headlines across the country. And while the marketplaces for businesses opened in mid-November, it seems that these have not been nearly as popular among their target audiences as the individual options were a year earlier.

The latest data from the federal government shows that the first week during which the small business insurance exchanges were open only saw some 200,000 visits from interested parties, according to a report from the Washington Post. That was down from the roughly 1.5 million people who viewed’s individual exchanges at the same time last year. However, it should also be noted that there were tens of millions of people who did not have health insurance, and a much smaller number of privately owned companies that would have qualified for these newer, business-oriented marketplaces.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would not reveal how many companies actually ended up offering their workers health insurance through these exchanges, nor how many people took their employers up on those offers, the report said. Nonetheless, most industry experts believe that any such number would end up being relatively small.

“We are not expecting a massive surge,” John Arensmeyer, chief executive of the industry group Small Business Majority, told the newspaper.

Why is this the case?
There may be many reasons that small businesses are avoiding the health insurance exchanges about two weeks into their being open, the report said. In most cases, they already offer their employees health insurance, and probably like the plans they’ve relied on for years at this point. Many may also have a lot of uncertainty about just how beneficial the policies available through the marketplaces would be in comparison with the old ones, meaning that they might not think the savings – if there are any – worth the effort. Finally, it should be noted that many individuals really only came to the exchanges within just a few days of the sign-up deadline, and many companies might end up being in the same boat.

Owners who want to prepare their companies for changing costs for health coverage might want to consider other ways to reduce small business insurance expenses. For instance, finding more affordable general liability insurance could free up thousands of dollars annually that can then be devoted to other insurance costs.