Not Too Early to Look Into Health Exchange Options

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While health insurance exchanges are not set to open until January 2014, enrollment for the exchanges begins October 1. Now is a good time for booksellers to be considering their new insurance options under the Affordable Care Act.

Just this week, the Small Business Administration’s Community Blog outlined the different options that individuals and small business owners will have under the new exchanges, or the “Health Insurance Marketplaces.”

A key aspect to the Marketplace will be the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, which is focused solely on small businesses. Each state exchange will operate a SHOP that offers small businesses and their employees a variety of qualified health plans, and employees will be able to choose the plans that fit their needs and their budgets. Ultimately, the goal of SHOPs will be to:

  • Provide side-by-side comparisons of qualified health plans, their benefits, premiums, and quality
  • Enable small businesses to offer employees a choice of health plans from several insurers, much as large employers can
  • Save small businesses money by spreading insurers’ administrative costs across more employers. In addition, businesses may be eligible for small business tax credits when they offer health coverage for their employees through a SHOP.

Additionally, employers will be able to decide whether and when to participate in SHOP as well as be able to choose their own level of contribution toward their employees’ coverage, and make a single monthly payment via SHOP rather than to multiple plans.  

Starting in 2014, SHOPS will allow small business owners to make side-by-side comparisons to find a plan that fits their budget and that works for their businesses and employees. And, beginning in 2015, employers will be able to choose a variety of plans to offer to their employees, and each employee will be able to choose the plan that best suits his or her needs.

However, in California and Connecticut, small business owners will have these latter options beginning in 2014, as reported by the New York Times. Initially, it was expected that all states would allow employers to choose from a variety of plans, as opposed to only a single plan, by January 1, 2014, but this requirement of SHOPs was delayed by a year, the Times reported. In mid-March, the American Booksellers Association joined with the Small Business Majority and other groups in urging the Department of Health and Human Services to reject the rule that delayed this requirement.

Nonetheless, SHOPs will provide small businesses with a single place to learn about health insurance and get accurate information on different plans; compare the prices and benefits of private insurance plans for their employees; and use their existing insurance broker to access the SHOP, or shop for plans themselves, without a broker.

Enrollment in SHOP marketplaces will open on October 1, 2013.

For more on SHOPs, here is a HealthCare Fact Sheet.

To find out more about Health Insurance Marketplaces, go to