HHS plans soft launch for SHOP exchange

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is planning a soft launch for the small business health option program (SHOP) exchange, allowing companies in just five states--Delaware, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri and New Jersey--to start accessing the marketplace next month.

HHS is opening the SHOP marketplace to the five states early to hopefully work out any kinks and glitches before the exchange goes live Nov. 15 for the full open enrollment period. And to help avoid the problem-plagued rollout of the federal exchange last year, HHS will use the pilot period to solicit feedback from insurers and small businesses in those five states, The Washington Post reported.

That means small companies with 50 or fewer full-time employees can start using HealthCare.gov to create an account, complete an application and upload their employee roster, among other things. However, employers won't be able to actually look for plans sold on the small business exchange until November, reported NJBiz.

HHS has delayed the implementation of the SHOP exchange several times, so this will be the first time small employers can start the process of offering health plans to their workers through the online marketplace.

"We are focused on implementing the federally facilitated SHOP Marketplace in a way that best serves the interests of small employers and their employees by utilizing the lessons of the first year of Federally-facilitated Marketplace implementation," said HHS spokesman Ben Wakana, the Post noted. "This includes providing FF-SHOP Early Access in a few states before fully launching online functionality."

Meanwhile, insurers have expressed concerns that the SHOP exchange could lead to adverse selections and an unfair disadvantage for payers competing in the marketplaces, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- read The Washington Post article
- see the NJBiz article