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Filed Under:Markets, Employee Benefits

Small-group exchange sales drift

The individual market is in a nap period. The group market is supposed to be awake.
The individual market is in a nap period. The group market is supposed to be awake.

Public health insurance exchange managers outside California and Hawaii may not be having much luck using the individual market nap period to focus on small-group coverage sales. Reports on Small Business Options Program (SHOP) sales are scarce, but, in most of the states that do release SHOP numbers, the numbers look small.

Regulators, insurers and exchange managers developed an "open enrollment period" system for the individual qualified health plan (QHP) market to try to keep consumers from waiting until they get sick to pay for coverage. The open enrollment period for individual QHP shoppers started Oct. 1 and straggled to an end sometime between March 31 and mid-April in most states. Consumers who want to apply for individual QHP coverage today have to qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP).

See also: Health market gets special.

The open enrollment period calendar does not apply to small employers seeking group coverage. Managers of public exchanges had suggested that they would try to use the individual QHP summertime nap period to focus on small-group sales.

Instead, it looks as if, in some states, the small-group market is taking a siesta along with the individual QHP market.

  • Minnesota: The MNsure SHOP division has attracted just 13 employers with a total of 111 employees in the past two months. During the individual QHP open enrollment period, the SHOP division was attracting an average of 22 employers per month, and those employers were offering SHOP coverage to about 160 employees per month.
  • Colorado: The Connect for Health Colorado SHOP division provided shop QHP coverage for 152 people in May, down from an average intake of about 280 enrollees per month earlier.
  • Vermont: Vermont requires all small-group coverage sales to go through the state's Vermont Health Connect exchange. There, the SHOP exchange has enrolled about 1,200 people in coverage in the past month, down from an average of about 4,800 per month earlier.

Hawaii and California are two examples of states in which SHOP activity may be increasing. The Hawai’i Health Connector added 232 SHOP enrollees between May 3 and June 4, up from an average intake of 90 enrollees per month earlier.

The Covered California SHOP program has brought in 2,900 people per month in the past two months, up from an average of about 750 people per month earlier.

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Nichole Morford

Nichole Morford
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