HHS Approves SHOP Exchange Delay for 18 States
On Tuesday, HHS announced it will allow 18 states to delay until 2016 an aspect of the Affordable Care Act's Small Business Health Options Program that would give small businesses' employees a choice of health plans, The Hill reports (Viebeck, The Hill, 6/10).
HHS announced last month that states could petition for waivers to delay the "employee choice" portion of SHOP (Norman, Politico, 6/10). States had until June 2 to submit petitions. According to The Hill, CMS received 18 petitions and granted all of them (The Hill, 6/10).
SHOP was intended to require businesses with fewer than 100 employees to offer workers a range of health care plans from which to choose coverage. However, such employers in states that received the waiver now will have to offer just one health plan to employees, instead of various coverage options, until 2016 (Politico, 6/10).
The states that received the waiver are:
- New Hampshire;
- New Jersey;
- North Carolina;
- South Carolina;
- South Dakota; and
- West Virginia (The Hill, 6/10).
In its announcement, HHS said that the waivers apply only to 2015 and that it "expects that states and issuers will be able to learn from the experiences of issuers in those SHOPs that have decided to implement employee choice in 2015 to prepare for 2016." It added that two-thirds of U.S. residents live in states that will enact the employer choice provision this year (Young, CQ HealthBeat, 6/10).
The decision marks the second delay to the SHOP exchanges, as states that relied on the federal SHOP exchange saw a similar delay for this year (Politico, 6/10).
GOP, Small Business Criticize Delay
Republicans criticized the delay, accusing the Obama administration of a lack of transparency regarding the decision. House Small Business Committee Chair Sam Graves (R-Mo.) called the announcement "yet another in a long line of bad news and signs of poor management of SHOP." He added that neither HHS nor CMS has responded to questions "regarding the development of SHOP and it appears that the dysfunction is worse than many of us thought" (The Hill, 6/10).
Further, Small Business Majority CEO John Arensmeyer said the group is "extremely disappointed" with the delay. He added, "Choice is the single biggest competitive advantage for SHOP. It's the feature of the exchange that's most likely to draw in new business, and now 18 states won't have it."
Other observers said the delay could hinder SHOP's growth (Politico, 6/10).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.