HHS Confirms Delay of Part of Small Business Health Options Program
On Friday, the Obama administration confirmed in a final rule that it is delaying by one year an aspect of the Small Business Health Options Program because it is too complex for insurers to implement by 2014, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
Under the Affordable Care Act, SHOP 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 (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 5/31).
The delay first was proposed in April, but was met by criticism by some Democrats and business advocates (Kliff, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 6/1).
The delay applies only to the portion of the program in which employees can select from multiple plans. SHOP still will be available for small businesses to select a single plan for all of their workers as scheduled in 2014 ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 5/31).
The delay applies to businesses operating in the 33 states with federal or partnership health insurance exchanges, although the 17 states running their own insurance marketplace could enact a similar delay, the administration said (California Healthline, 4/2).
"We have serious concerns that issuers would not be operationally ready to offer [health plans] through the SHOP if we implemented employee choice for 2014," the final rule states ("Wonkblog," Washington Post, 6/1). HHS said the delay will not be extended beyond one year ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 5/31).
Comments on Delay
John Arensmeyer, leader of the advocacy group Small Business Majority, said the organization is "disappointed" that SHOP will not be fully ready in 2014, but added, "[W]e're pleased that feature will be there in most of the exchanges that are being run by the states." Arensmeyer noted that the delay could result in some businesses deciding to forgo offering work-based health coverage (Somashekhar, Washington Post, 5/31).
HHS said the federal program "will still provide employers with a streamlined comparison of health plans from multiple health insurance issuers, assistance modeling employee contributions and real-time premium quotes," adding that all SHOP plans will meet minimum requirements for qualified health plans ("Wonkblog," Washington Post, 6/1).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.