Facing the realities of complying with the quickly-approaching January 1, 2014 effective date for health care Exchanges, the Obama administration announced a delay in availability of Exchange-based plans for small businesses and their employees.
The Small Business Health Option Program (or “SHOP”) is a component of health care reform that is intended to make affordable health insurance options available to employers with no more than 100 employees. States were required under the Affordable Care Act to have SHOP insurance options available for purchase under their Exchanges beginning January 1, 2014.
SHOP plans are considered an important tenant of health care reform as they are intended to bring affordability and accessibility of health coverage to small businesses that often face exorbitant costs to offer employees adequate health coverage. The SHOP Exchange will offer small businesses a choice of health plans, helping employers compare different health plans and enroll their employees. The government has said that SHOP plan implementation will be delayed until 2015 due to “operational challenges” being encountered in establishing such plans. Employees of small businesses will still be able to purchase coverage through a state-based Exchange, but such individuals may be limited to one plan option instead of having a choice of plans.