The SHOP Falls Short on Enrollments

Remember those “other” new Obamacare exchanges—the ones that small businesses were supposed to use to sign up workers for health insurance?

Yeah, well, apparently a whole bunch of small businesses forgot about them, too.

A new Government Accountability Office report finds that a stunningly low number of workers have enrolled in insurance plans sold on small-business health exchanges run by federal and state governments.

The report suggests that the Small Business Health Options Program exchanges will fall well short of the 2 million people that had been projected to sign up by January.

As of last summer, only about 76,000 people working for about 12,000 employers had enrolled in insurance plans sold by 18 state-run SHOP exchanges, according to the GAO report released Thursday.

While the other 33 SHOP exchanges run by the federal government didn’t have enrollment data available for the GAO, officials in charge of them “do not expect major differences in enrollment trends between” the state-run SHOP exchanges and their federally run counterparts, the report noted. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service was still compiling enrollment data from insurers and did not expect complete numbers until early 2015, the GAO said.

Obamacare’s small business health marketplaces are likely to fall well short of the 2 million enrollees projected for 2014, a GAO report suggests.

The SHOP exchanges are supposed to help small employees provide group health coverage to their workers. But most such employers clearly haven’t bothered to take the exchanges up on that offer, or aren’t aware that it’s available, raising questions about whether these exchanges can get close to the 4 million enrollees that had been projected by 2017.

One state-run SHOP—Mississippi’s—had just one person enrolled, the GAO report said. Washington state had the second-lowest enrollment with 42 people.

Two population-heavy states, California and New York, had just 9,563 and 10,023 people enrolled, respectively, in their SHOP exchanges during their first year of operation.

Vermont, the second-least populous state, had by far, the highest enrollments in a state-run SHOP: 33,696 people. That represents 44 percent of all enrollees on the state-run SHOPs.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary