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The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) is relaunching with improvements
All of the details, requirements, conflicting opinions and deadlines surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have been putting employers in a mind-numbing daze for months. As the deadline for the employer “shared responsibility” mandate nears, uncertainty remains in the air. It’s important for HR professionals to clarify details now so companies can make the best decisions for their employees while ensuring the financial stability of their organizations.
The employer-sponsored coverage requirements break down as follows:
Where SHOP Fell Short
Unlike the ACA's public exchanges where individuals can purchase coverage for themselves or their families, SHOP exchanges haven’t met expectations. Small business owners have had the option to apply for coverage through a limited number of state SHOP exchanges or by paper application for the federal exchange since October 2013, but a delay in the federal exchange SHOP website (set to launch in November 2014) curtailed enrollment.
Most smaller companies (approximately 64.8 percent) do not offer health insurance to employees, and although SHOP offers tax credits, they’re only available to businesses with a high percentage of low-income workers who would likely be
eligible for Medicaid or significant subsidies on the individual exchanges. In these cases, a business may be doing its employees a disservice by offering health insurance, because providing employer-sponsored insurance prevents employees from receiving subsidies on the individual exchange.
Another problem is that companies have to be profitable or the tax credits they receive on the exchange have no use. Many limited liability corporations (designated as LLCs) are only marginally profitable, providing business owners with tax credits they can’t use.
SHOP also competes with the growing number of
private exchanges, which are typically better at delivering benefits. Private exchanges boast multiple carriers, employee customization, employer-defined contributions, dedicated customer service, and far less administrative hassle—such as consolidated billing and the handling of COBRA. Many also offer subsidies to small companies with low-wage workers.
But while the SHOP exchange has had some setbacks, it’s still a good option for some small businesses. Knowing and understanding all of the options available is the surest way for HR benefit managers to find the right path for their companies.
What HR Needs to Know
After HR professionals understand where their company stands in the scope of employer-sponsored insurance, they should take the following steps to determine the best course of action:
Companies of every size now have more options for offering affordable health insurance to their workers. When employers and HR professionals understand the law, the options and the incentives available, they’ll uncover choices that are mutually beneficial to both the company and its employees.
Benjamin Geyerhahn is an entrepreneur, health care policy expert and member of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Health Benefit Exchange Regional Advisory Committee. He is the founder and CEO ofBeneStream, which uses technology and a multilingual call center to guide employers and employees through the Medicaid enrollment process.
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