Small businesses will have to wait until next November to enroll employees online through Small Business Heath Options Program (SHOP) federal officials announced this week. The SHOP program developed under the Affordable Care Act was designed to provide small employers with affordable qualified health plan options for their employees. Currently only one exchange-based health plan is available for 2014, and now employers will have to be patient until 2015 to access the online portal portion through healthcare.gov for enrollment in a SHOP plan.
Agents and brokers are able to help small employers who still want to purchase a marketplace plan for their workers. Instead of using the federal website, where the focus is on fixing technical difficulties for individual purchasers, small business owners will need to rely on agents and insurance companies to buy their health coverage this year.
Due to the technical difficulties experienced with the healthcare.gov website, the government also extended the sign-up period from Dec. 15 to Dec. 23 to get individual coverage that starts on January 1. Insurance companies were also allowed to extend coverage one more year for individual policies that do not meet the new coverage requirements.
Additional complications for getting individuals covered revolve around missing technology on healthcare.gov including programs that help insurers verify the names and insurance plans choices of enrollees and get insurers their money from subsidized customers. Insurers and web brokers are still looking to begin direct enrollment for their customers in Qualified Health Plans (QHP) as well.
As the government looks to find solutions during this implementation period, small fixes are helping, as are brokers and agents. Web broker GoHealth launched a workaround this week letting customers enroll in subsidy-eligible QHPs by calling a customer service representative. While the healthcare.gov site is under repair, reliable agents eligible to sell QHPs can also be found at http://www.nahu.org/consumer/findagent2.cfm.
Quick Guideline Update
- Individual enrollment extended until Dec. 23 for Jan. 1 coverage.
- Insurance companies may extend non-qualified health plan coverage for an additional year.
- Small Business Health Options Program online marketplace enrollment delayed for a year until November 2014.
- Next year individual open enrollment will now start on Nov. 15, 2014 and finish on Jan. 15, 2015.
- Online marketplace Spanish-language sign-up tool postponed.