On September 26, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP) online enrollment would be postponed from October 1 until November. That same day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney clarified the enrollment would begin on November 1. However, during a Ways and Means Committee hearing yesterday, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said the SHOPs would be instituted at the end of November.
“As if small businesses didn’t have enough to deal with in an uncertain economy, they now must find time to comply with the maze of health law regulations and requirements, and figure out when the Small Business Health Options Program will actually be available for them,” said House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO). “With a purchase deadline of December 15, small businesses could have as little as 16 days to enroll in SHOP plans. For those who are receiving notice that their current plans are being cancelled under the law, the matter is even more urgent. This law’s rocky enrollment rollout is creating more stress and uncertainty for many Americans and small businesses, and this latest confusion adds to a growing list of frustrations.”
The SHOPs has experienced multiple problems this year. In the Spring, the Department of Health and Human Services postponed the employee choice plans in the SHOPs until 2015, forcing small employers in states with federally-operated exchanges to offer only a single plan for their employees. This move severely limited the breadth of choices that were originally envisioned, which could lead to increased premium costs. The problems were predicted months ago and should have been addressed instead of glossed over. In June, a GAO report requested by Chairman Graves confirmed the administration was ill-equipped for the implementation of the SHOPs, showing potential for “implementation challenges going forward.”