Some States Gain Early Access to Small Business Exchanges

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s mandate that small businesses (at least, those with 50-plus full-time employees) have to start providing workers with health insurance options goes into effect at the start of next year. Part of the rollout for that rule, however, includes the introduction of health insurance exchanges that will help such companies find the most affordable coverage for their specific needs, Now, smaller companies in a number of states will have early access to those marketplaces.

In all, five states – Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, and Delaware – will be granted access to the Small Business Health Options Program (also known as SHOP) exchanges a little more than two weeks before the rest of the country, according to a report from Kaiser Health News and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. These marketplaces will be open to all companies with fewer than 50 employees, however, with an eye toward getting as many people covered as possible.

What’s the reason?
The national marketplace will open on Nov. 15, but those five states will have access as soon as late October, the report said. The reason for this is that they were selected by the federal government based on their current insurance markets and how much choice employees there had when it came to choosing a plan. As a result, companies, insurance agents, and brokers will all have the ability to start filling out applications for the exchanges, view plans, and evaluate costs a little in advance. They would then also be asked to provide feedback that the federal government could use in the 11th hour to make any final, necessary changes to the SHOP website before it launches nationwide.

Meanwhile, it should also be noted that there’s a particular incentive for businesses with the smallest number of employees to get involved in SHOP exchanges, the report said. Those with fewer than 25 full-time workers may be able to qualify for tax credits that would reimburse them for as much as half of their premium costs when buying coverage through these portals.

Owners who want to set money aside to better handle potentially added health insurance costs might want to think about other ways of handling those expenses. That might include finding more affordable options when it comes to other types of small business insurance, such as liability insurance, which could end up saving a company thousands.