Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) reminded small businesses of new resources for employee health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced that it has finalized the applications for the small business exchanges, also called the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). SHOP will allow small business employers to choose from a range of easy-to-understand health coverage options for their employees. Applications to the program will be available October 1, 2013, with health coverage plans to take effect January 1, 2014. Additionally, employers may qualify for a tax credit worth up to 50% of the employer's premium contribution.
"I often say that the role of government is to create a nurturing environment for job creation and job preservation," said Sen. Carper. "A big part of that is providing our small businesses with the support they need to provide high-quality, affordable health insurance plans to their employees. Programs like the small business health insurance exchanges, called Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, help small businesses to form large purchasing pools, using market forces to reduce the cost of health insurance, while also making the process of purchasing employee health insurance plans easier and more accessible. The program also expands the variety of options potentially available to employees, which ultimately helps many workers in our state access the best coverage for their health needs for the lowest cost. I encourage Delaware's small businesses to examine this resource and become familiar with SHOP before enrollment begins in October."
CMS finalized the applications for the SHOP program last month, and they are available in both paper and online formats. The applications are simpler than existing small group market insurance applications, with the paper application for employees and employers only two or three pages respectively and the online application designed so applicants only answer questions relevant to their situation.
CMS also announced its rule for transitioning employers into the SHOP program. In 2014, SHOPs will provide employers the flexibility to choose to offer only one plan or allow their employees to individually choose from a range of plans. The Federally-facilitated SHOP will allow employers to choose one plan from a range of plans to offer their employees. In 2015 and thereafter, all SHOPs will allow small businesses to let their employees choose coverage from a number of plans.
The SHOP application can be found at this link, under Affordable Insurance Exchanges: http://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Forms-Reports-and-Other-Resources/Downloads/shop-employer-application-5-31-2013.pdf.