Beginning in 2014, individuals and small employers will be able to purchase health insurance through online competitive marketplaces, or Exchanges. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), each state is expected to have a Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) component under its Exchange. The SHOP is intended to assist eligible small employers in providing health insurance options for their employees.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will establish and operate a federally facilitated Exchange (FFE or FF-SHOP) in each state that does not establish its own Exchange. The FFE will include both individual market and SHOP components.
On Sept. 26, 2013, HHS issued a news release launching its education and outreach efforts to help small employers learn more about how to take advantage of the SHOP. The news release notes that the FF-SHOP opens Oct. 1, 2013, when small employers can start the application process and get an overview of available plans and premiums in their area. However, online enrollment for the FF-SHOP will not be available until November.
Unlike individuals purchasing coverage through the Exchange, small employers can enroll through the SHOP on a monthly basis throughout the year. As such, some states are phasing in SHOP application and enrollment periods. The FF-SHOP opens Oct. 1, 2013, when small employers can start the application process and get an overview of available plans and premiums in their area. However, online enrollment for small businesses will not be available until November. During October 2013, small businesses will have to mail or fax their information to government officials to enroll in coverage through the FF-SHOP. All functions for SHOP will be available in November.
If employers and employees enroll by Dec. 15, 2013, coverage will begin Jan. 1, 2014. Detailed information on the SHOP application and enrollment process are available at HealthCare.gov.
SHOP Education and Outreach
As part of the expanded education and outreach campaign, HHS plans to make additional resources available for small employers. Beginning Oct. 1, 2013, the dedicated SHOP small employer call center (at 1-800-706-7893) will offer extended hours, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST. Employers may call the SHOP Small Employer call center for assistance when completing an application beginning Oct. 1. This call center will also refer employers in states running their own SHOP Exchange to the correct contact information for their state.
HHS will also offer educational webinars tailored to educate small business owners across the country about what the SHOP offers and how it works. HHS has trained more than 40,000 agents and brokers, who will continue their traditional role of helping small businesses enroll in coverage, both inside and outside the SHOP Exchange.
Source: Health and Human Services