Small Businesses Still Worry About Health Insurance Costs

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was designed in part to provide small businesses with more access to low-cost health insurance for their workers, but the rollout of the exchanges that would allow them to do so has been slow and bumpy. That, in turn, seems to have left many such companies with concerns about how they’re going to cover their costs as the mandate to do so arrives.

The Small Business Health Options Program – or SHOP – exchanges are slated to open later this month, but it seems that a relatively minimal number of such companies are actually even getting ready to sign up for coverage through those exchanges, according to a report from the New York Times. For instance, in California only about 12,000 small businesses have signed up for the state’s exchange, and few companies are likewise taking advantage of the tax credits the state has made available for buying coverage for workers with lower incomes.

However, some experts also think that this could be the kind of growing pain in the first year of availability that the insurance exchanges for individuals experienced, the report said. The hope is that, as time goes on, more companies will examine their choices, see the benefits, and come to the table to participate.

“There’s no denying that the program got off to a slow start in the first year,” Linda J. Blumberg, a policy expert at the Urban Institute, told the newspaper. She added that the focus has been so heavy on making individual exchanges work that the SHOP marketplaces have largely been put on the back burner, both at a state and federal level.

How meaningful could widespread enrollment be?
Interestingly, experts say that the impact of small businesses getting heavily involved with these exchanges could lead to benefits for tens of millions of Americans, the report said. While the markets are only open to those with fewer than 50 workers, such companies still employ some 34 million people nationwide, and about 44 percent of companies with between three and nine full-time workers offer them such plans.

Companies that want to free up some money to help handle the added cost may be wise to consider finding more affordable small business insurance in other ways. That could include cutting costs on policies for commercial insurance, to potentially save thousands annually.