Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI)reacted to the recent news that implementation of important parts of the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Exchanges, which would make health insurance more available and affordable for small businesses and their employees, has been delayed. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has proposed eliminating the ability of employees to select the plan of their choice through SHOP Exchanges for 2014. Small businesses will instead only be able to choose one plan until 2015 under the HHS proposal.
"I'm disappointed to learn that this critical help for small businesses to afford health insurance will be delayed," said Kind. "Small businesses and workers need health care options so they can decide which plan is best for their needs and their budgets, and delaying those choices will mean higher costs for coverage."
The SHOP Act helps make health insurance more affordable for self-employed individuals and small businesses, including family farmers. SHOP Exchanges included in health care reform allow small business employees to pool their buying power so that plans have to compete for their business and workers can comparison shop among a variety of plans and prices so they have the same type of quality, affordable coverage now available only through large employers. First introduced by Rep. Kind in 2008, the SHOP Act has consistently won balanced, bipartisan Congressional support as well as support from a broad coalition of labor and business groups.
Wisconsin will be hard-hit by the delay, thanks to Governor Scott Walker's decision to rely on the federal government to operate the health care exchange instead of setting up a state-based exchange. States that decided to operate their own exchanges will have more freedom to offer coverage through SHOP exchanges starting next year.
"The benefits offered in the SHOP Act would be of great value to Wisconsin's small businesses and workers," Kind continued. "This news is further evidence that Governor Walker was wrong to play political games and oppose the creation of state-based exchanges. I encourage the Department of Health and Human Services to expedite the process of creating all parts of the SHOP Exchanges, since further delay will make it harder for small businesses and employees to find affordable coverage."
Kind also noted that the Affordable Care Act does not require small businesses with fewer than 50 employees to provide coverage to their workers, although small businesses that do offer coverage will be eligible for a larger 50 percent tax credit to make coverage more affordable starting in 2014.