Sunsetting SHOP's online enrollment option will harm small businesses

Earlier this month, the administration announced a proposal to sunset online enrollment for the federal small business health insurance marketplace, otherwise known as SHOP. It’s one more example of how the administration is determined to undo as much of the Affordable Care Act as possible, despite the fact that it's helping small business owners, their employees, and millions of Americans gain coverage.

The SHOP marketplace allows small business owners with 50 or fewer employees to offer flexible and affordable health insurance options to their workers, and the online option makes enrolling for a plan simple and convenient.  However, if this proposal is finalized, business owners will only be able to browse plans through, and would have to enroll using a broker or buying directly from an insurance company. Forcing this extra burden onto small business owners will make it likely that SHOP enrollment dwindles to little or nothing. And it will make it more difficult for them to take advantage of the small business tax credit and features like employee choice, which allows their employees to choose among different carriers and pick the plan that works best for them.  

Bryan Gillum, the owner of CMAX Advisors in Columbus, Ohio is one small business owner who has benefitted from SHOP and is very disappointed in this decision. Before enrolling in the SHOP marketplace earlier this year, Bryan purchased his insurance through a broker, and says he receives better coverage at a comparable rate. “SHOP made it easy to compare plans and find the best option for my business,” Bryan said. “And I’m now able to offer better health coverage at no additional cost compared to our previous plan.”

As Brian’s experience shows, SHOP has the potential to be a great resource to help small employers find quality and comprehensive health coverage, but only if this administration makes it a priority to bolster the program and recognize the challenges small businesses face in accessing coverage. But unfortunately this proposal, in addition to the efforts by Republican lawmakers to dismantle the ACA, will only hurt small businesses like Bryan’s.

Bryan says, “I urge the administration to drop this proposal, and focus instead on improving SHOP so that more small businesses can take advantage of the program.”

To learn more about SHOP and what the future of the Affordable Care Act means for your small business, visit our Health Coverage Guide or sign up for an event near you.