Many small business owners across the country are likely concerned already about the ways in which the federal health insurance mandate put into place by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will end up affecting their bottom lines. However, when it comes to enrolling in the ACA's health insurance exchanges, it seems the Obama administration is not exactly expecting a rush of sign-ups for 2014.
Right now, many small businesses are not even able to quickly sign up for the exchanges because the websites that would allow them to do so are not fully functional, according to a report from the political news site The Hill. However, even when they are able to be used, the fact remains that very few small businesses will even be able to sign up for coverage through these marketplaces simply because they don't really have to do so yet. Currently, interested companies can't do even sign up online, but rather have to go through insurers if they're that interested in coverage.
Companies with fewer than 50 employees actually became able to buy coverage through the Small Business Health Options Program – or SHOP – exchanges in December, but companies of that size specifically will never actually have to provide their workers with such health plans under the law. The ACA only mandates that companies with 50 or more employees give them some sort of options for health coverage.
Some lawmakers not happy with progress
Even as the exchange is not fully set up, U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, a Missouri Republican who chairs the House Small Business Committee, recently asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide the committee with data on the SHOP enrollment numbers, but it seems that no such information is yet available, the report said. Right now, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administers the program, cannot generate it quickly or easily because the exchanges themselves are not up and running, and instead the aforementioned insurers have to submit such data.
Owners who remain worried about their health care costs under the new legal environment may want to look into ways they can cut other small business insurance expenses over the course of the coming year. This could include finding far more affordable errors and omissions insurance, or coverage for workers' compensation. Finding more affordable plans that fit their needs could save companies thousands annually.