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Businesses’ enrollment in SHOP marketplace delayed until November

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced that small businesses will not be permitted to enroll in the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) marketplaces until November of 2013—a month delay from the previously scheduled enrollment date.

Background. Under the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (a.k.a., the Affordable Care Act, or the ACA), each state exchange must create a SHOP marketplace. SHOPs are intended to allow small employers to offer their employees a choice of qualified health plans in the same manner that large employers do.

For this purpose, a small employer is an employer that employed on average at least one but no more than 100 employees on business days during the preceding calendar year, and that employs at least one employee on the first day of the plan year. Before 2016, a state will have the option to define small employer by substituting 50 for 100 employees.

Small employers buying health insurance through the SHOP marketplace may also qualify for a Small Business Health Care Tax Credit to help defray their premium costs, which, beginning in 2014, will be worth as much as 50% of the employer’s contribution to premiums, and will be available only to those small employers purchasing health insurance coverage through the SHOP.

Unlike individuals purchasing health insurance in the state exchanges (Exchanges), small employers are permitted to enroll in the qualified health plans through the SHOP on a monthly basis throughout the year. The SHOP marketplace for federally facilitated marketplace states was expected to open on Oct. 1, 2013, when small employers were to start the application process and get an overview of the available plans and premiums in their area.

Enrollment delay. HHS has announced that small employers will not be able to enroll in SHOP marketplaces until November of 2013, which is a month’s delay. HHS says that if small employers and employees enroll in SHOPs by Dec. 1, 2013, qualified health plan coverage will commence Jan. 1, 2014.