Online SHOP Sign-Up Delayed for One Year

premera modaThe Obama administration announced today a year-long delay of online enrollment for small businesses looking to purchase health coverage through the federal-run exchange, adding another setback for

The delay comes just weeks after administration officials said the online enrollment would be ready for small businesses by the end of November. Small businesses will have alternative sign-up methods, HHS announced Wednesday. Since Oct. 1, small businesses have been able to apply for exchange coverage by paper application. Those looking to enroll in SHOP can sign up through an agent or broker or directly through an issuer.

The announcement of the delay, the day before Thanksgiving, is evocative of when the White House announced, just before Independence Day weekend, a one-year delay in the requirement for large employers to offer health insurance to employees.

This delay could mean large impacts for Alaska, a state that chose not to expand Medicaid as well as not creating a state-based health insurance exchange. Small businesses seeking insurance may have to look outside of the exchange for options.

We asked the two insurers, Premera Blue Cross and Moda Health, offering plans on the SHOP market in Alaska for their initial reactions to learning that SHOP was going to be delayed for an additional year.

“This is not a surprise given the challenges we’ve seen with thus far. Our experience with small employers indicates they are likely better served shopping outside the Exchange,” said Eric Earling, Director of Corporate Communications at Premera. “We are participating in SHOP in Alaska only because federal regulations require it. We look forward to serving small employers outside the SHOP, be they interested in staying on their current plan for 2014 or purchasing new coverage.”

“Regarding SHOP closing, it is unfortunate news, but we will continue working to the best of our abilities to meet the needs of small Alaskan employers,” said Jason Gootee, Alaska Regional Manager of Moda Health. “As a company, Moda Health is embracing the transformation of health care, and part of that means being flexible during the implementation of the ACA.”