Report highlights the problems of the small business health insurance exchange network

Health insurance for small business health care costs

GAO report shows that enrollment in SHOP is not meeting expectations

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has released a new report concerning enrollment in the federal Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). The program is meant to serve as a health insurance exchange catering specifically to small businesses. In most cases, these businesses are required to offer their employees insurance coverage due to the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, but these companies cannot find coverage through conventional insurance exchanges. SHOP was designed to address this issue.

Only 12,000 health care plans have been sold through 18 state-run SHOP exchanges

According to the report from the Government Accountability Office, enrollment in SHOP has been significantly lower than expected. For state-run SHOP exchanges, of which there are 18, all have only managed to enroll approximately 76,000 individuals, all employees of companies participating in SHOP as well as their dependents. This coverage comes from 12,000 health plans purchased by small businesses through the government program. The federal SHOP exchange is not expected to be available until early 2015, but the report does not predict that the exchange will see big enrollment numbers.

Technical problems may be preventing small businesses from finding the coverage they need

Health insurance for small business health care reformCost may not be the problem that SHOP is facing currently. The policies sold through the exchange network are cost competitive with health plans offered in the private market, but come with better benefits, in some cases. The issue may lie with the relatively unreliable nature of the exchange network. Like other exchanges, SHOP has been plagued with technical issues that have prevented businesses from enrolling for coverage and offering this coverage to their employees.

If technical issues persist, small businesses may be forced to make costly insurance decisions

If these technical problems cannot be resolved, SHOP exchanges, both state and federal, will likely find marginal success. This could create problems for small businesses that had been hoping to take advantage of an inexpensive insurance opportunity. Those that cannot enroll in a SHOP exchange may be forced to find coverage elsewhere, which may be significantly more expensive.

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