Filed Under:Health Insurance, Individual Health

HHS delays SHOP Web enrollment launch

Gary Cohen (House Energy screen capture)
Gary Cohen (House Energy screen capture)

The U.S. Department of Health Human Services (HHS) is pushing the launch of the federal small-group public exchange Web enrollment system back to November.

The delay in the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) online enrollment system start affects only the states in which HHS will be running federally facilitated exchanges (FFEs).

States that are running their own state-based exchanges can still get their Web-based SHOP enrollment systems going Oct. 1, the official launch date for the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) public health insurance exchange system.

The delay will also have no direct effect on the FFE individual exchange program.

Reuters is reporting that Obama administration officials told it that small employers in FFE states will still be able to enroll in SHOP plans Oct. 1 by filling out paper forms or calling an FFE call center.

John Greene, a vice president at the National Association of Health Underwriters, said his group has learned that agents and brokers will be able to sell SHOP plans Oct. 1.

“It won’t be an electronic train,” Greene said. “It will be a little horse and buggy. But they can still get it done.”

Having the ability to start the SHOP enrollment process before the federal exchange Web enrollment system could help brokers get an edge over that system in the SHOP market.

The initial exchange enrollment rules call for employers to make payments by Dec. 15 to have coverage take effect Jan. 1.

The SHOP will be open to employers with 50 or fewer full-time employees. Some small employers that sign up for coverage through the SHOP and have relatively modestly paid employees can qualify for temporary small-group health insurance tax credits. The Congressional Budget Office has predicted that the SHOP program will be much smaller than the individual exchange program and may attract employers with only a few million employees.

The initial exchange enrollment rules call for employers to make payments by Dec. 15 to have coverage take effect Jan. 1.

The SHOP will be open to employers with 50 or fewer full-time employees. Some small employers that sign up for coverage through the SHOP and have relatively modestly paid employees can qualify for temporary small-group health insurance tax credits.

HHS is saying that it will open a call center aimed specifically at small employers Oct. 1. Employers can call the center at (800) 706-7893 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST.

HHS also is working with the Small Business Administration to organize SHOP webinars.

About 40,000 agents and brokers have been trained to sell SHOP coverage, HHS says.

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