Covered California Takes SHOP Exchange Offline To Make Fixes
On Wednesday, Covered California announced that the online portal for its Small Business Health Options Program will be taken offline to fix problems with the site, the Sacramento Business Journal reports (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 2/13)
Background on SHOP
In December 2013, Covered California formally launched its health insurance exchange website for small businesses with 50 or fewer employees.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the SHOP portal allows small businesses to offer either a single plan to all of their workers or select a benefit level and allow employees to choose among several plans offered at that level (California Healthline, 12/3/13).
So far, nearly 600 small businesses representing about 4,500 residents have enrolled in SHOP coverage, according to the Business Journal (Sacramento Business Journal, 2/13). In addition, about 200 group applications still are being processed.
Details of Decision To Pull SHOP Portal
According to the Washington Post's "On Small Business," state officials will "implement a series of redesigns" to the site while it is offline (Harrison, "On Small Business," Washington Post, 2/13).
Observers say the decision to take the portal offline comes in response to criticism by small business owners and insurance agents who have had difficulty enrolling in health coverage through the SHOP exchange.
Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee in a statement said, "The SHOP portal was not meeting the needs of agents or small employers and needed improvements."
The upgraded portal is expected to improve various steps in the process, such as:
- Calculating eligibility;
- Issuing invoices; and
- Implementing changes (Sacramento Business Journal, 2/13).
Lee said that the updated portal will be launched in the fall and "will significantly enhance the enrollment process" for small business owners.
Lee stressed that the decision to take the portal offline would not affect the paper enrollment process. In addition, he said applicants can enroll by phone or through insurance brokers ("On Small Business," Washington Post, 2/14).
John Kabateck -- executive director of the California Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business -- called the portal shutdown "the latest disturbing sign that this law just isn't ready for prime time and is leaving millions of uncertain small businesses and families in the dark."
However, Small Business California President Scott Hauge applauded the decision to take the SHOP exchange offline to make changes (Sacramento Business Journal, 2/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.