Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a plan to change the way that small businesses enroll in insurance coverage through the Federal exchanges, offering employers the help they need to find affordable insurance for their employees.
The Federally-Facilitated Small Business Health Options Program (FF-SHOP) program was mandated under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but failed to sign-up significant numbers of small employers. Out of the nearly 30 million small businesses in the country, less than 8,000, just .1 percent of small businesses currently participate in the FF-SHOPs in 33 states, which cover less than 40,000 individuals nationwide. SHOP programs are now defunct and do not provide needed insurance coverage for small businesses.
"Our goal is to reduce ACA burdens on consumers and small businesses and make it easier for them to purchase coverage," said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. "The ACA has failed to provide affordable insurance to small business and to the American people. This new direction will help employers find affordable healthcare coverage for their employees and make the SHOP exchanges function more effectively."
As part of the changes CMS intends to propose, employers would still obtain a determination of SHOP eligibility through HealthCare.gov. The move would reduce the federal government's role in healthcare coverage decisions and make it easier for issuers to use their own enrollment systems for SHOP plans. Online enrollment would be removed from HealthCare.gov and small employers would access coverage through an agent or broker, or an issuer of their choice, for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2018.
The FF-SHOPs exist in states where the SHOP program is operated by the federal government. Small businesses with SHOP coverage that took effect in 2017 would be able to continue using HealthCare.gov for enrollment and premium payment until their current plan year ends. Some employers that purchase SHOP coverage are also able to access the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. This option will still be available to small employers who purchase coverage under the new enrollment approach.
Under the intended approach, state-based SHOPs not using HealthCare.gov could continue to operate as they have previously.
For more information please click here: https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Regulations-and-Guidance/Downloads/The-Future-of-the-SHOP-CMS-Intends-to-Allow-Small-Businesses-in-SHOPs-Using-HealthCaregov-More-Flexibility-when-Enrolling-in-Healthcare-Coverage.pdf