WASHINGTON (Sept. 24, 2014) — The U.S. House Committee on Small Business' Subcommittee on Health and Technology held a hearing on Sept. 18 to examine the effectiveness of the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOPs).
According to the Automotive Service Association (ASA), the purpose of the hearing—titled, “An Update on the Small Business Health Options Program: Is It Working for Small Businesses?”—was to determine if SHOPs is working as designed. SHOPs are marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to assist small business owners in comparing and purchasing health insurance plans for their employees.
During the hearing, the ASA said members of the subcommittee “were quick to raise questions regarding the efficiency of the SHOPs.”
Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., subcommittee chairman, stated in his opening remarks: “Despite spending vast amounts of time and taxpayer dollars establishing the SHOPs, the program continues to be beset by operational delays and other problems that have undermined their utility as a tool for small businesses.
“These problems include the inability to utilize Web-based portals, limited choice of plans, and a lack of insurance carrier participation in the SHOPs.”
Throughout the hearing, according to the ASA, “members expressed frustration with the administration's apparent lack of concern about the SHOPs performance. Despite several requests, the committee has not received any information regarding enrollment numbers or progress updates.”
Roger Stark, a health care policy analyst at the Washington Policy Center in Seattle who testified as a witness before the subcommittee, said that “although the employer mandate is a critical part of the ACA, the SHOP marketplace for small businesses seems to be almost an afterthought in the law.”
The ASA noted he also stated that “there is no clear evidence of interest on the part of small companies to provide health insurance through a marketplace with tax credits.”
More information about the SHOP program is available on the government's healthcare website.
According to information on that website, participants can apply for and enroll in SHOP coverage for employees of their small businesses directly through an agent, broker or insurance company. SHOP enrollment is open throughout the year, the website states, with the deadline to enroll always the 15th day of the month for coverage to be effective on the first day of the following month.