Employees of small businesses in Alabama will have to wait until 2016 before they can pick their own plans through an Affordable Healthcare Act program designed to offer them choices on their healthcare coverage.
Alabama is one of 18 states being given at least a one-year reprieve from the implementation of a part of the ACA’s small business health insurance exchange. The delay to the “employee choice” provision of the Small Business Health Option Program, known as SHOP, was announced last week by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The change means small-business employees wanting to buy health insurance through SHOP will only have one option in Alabama and 17 other states.The SHOP program was designed encourage smaller companies – defined as those with up to 100 employees – to cover their workers and give them a variety of insurance choices.
States argued the exchange would allow for insurers to put higher prices on “employee choice” policies to help cover costs related to sick customers.
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia were granted the exemption.
While states said they were afraid the program would hurt prices, John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of the Small Business Majority said he was “extremely disappointed” the implementation was delayed.
“Allowing states to opt out of (ACA) for yet another year could harm small businesses by putting them at a competitive disadvantage to big businesses that are able to offer a choice of plans to their employees,” he said. “In states where the small business marketplaces are being run by the federal government, allowing for further delays in this feature also puts small businesses in those states at a competitive disadvantage to small employers in states whose marketplaces have employee choice.”
Likehealthcare.gov, the SHOP program has gotten off to a rocky start. Its website isn’t online yet, something the Obama administration said should happen this fall.
The choice feature was already delayed this year for most of the 32 states that relied on the federal exchange for small businesses, Politico reports. Seventeen other states and the District of Columbia are operating their own SHOPS.
June 12, 2014