On July 3rd, the day before Independence Day, the administration announced that the employer mandate was being pushed back until 2015. And today, the day before Thanksgiving, the Obama administration has announced yet another delay in the President’s signature healthcare law – the SHOP exchange for small employers is being delayed until November 2014 to give HHS time to fix the Healthcare.gov website.
The SHOP, which stands for Small business Health Options Program, was scheduled to go live October 1st of this year, the same day as the individual marketplace, but HHS announced back in September that it would be delayed until sometime in November. They just failed to mention that they meant November of next year.
Earlier this year, HHS announced that the employee choice component of the SHOP exchange, which allows employees within a single small employer group to choose among multiple insurance companies, would be optional for states next year – it’s not a required feature until 2015. So, for most small employers, there really was no benefit from the SHOP exchange in 2014 anyway. The only groups that would be likely to enroll in the SHOP are those receiving a small employer tax credit since the ACA requires these groups to enroll through the SHOP once it goes live. Not many small employers are taking advantage of the tax credit, but until the SHOP is operational those that do will be able to enroll in coverage or renew their plan as they always have – directly through the insurance company with the assistance of a licensed agent.
The good news this week is that the Healthcare.gov website, while still far from perfect, if working MUCH better than before, so agents who want to help their clients apply for subsidized coverage – either directly through the government’s site or through a private exchange site that connects to the federal site – should be able to do so with more success than they have for the past couple months. At least that’s one thing to be thankful for.