Though supporters and opponents of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have a lot to disagree on, during a hearing Wednesday they agreed on one thing: That small business owners who are shopping for health plans should have some help from brokers and agents.
The headaches awaiting owners who head to HealthCare.gov or a state-based exchange website and try to sign up for Small Business Health Options plans on their own came up often during the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee hearing on the SHOP exchange program rollout.
Some witnesses talked about successful efforts to offer SHOP programs.
Witnesses reported that Kentucky’s kynect exchange has received 343 complete SHOP applications, and that employers in New Mexico have started 1,143 SHOP applications.
Mila Kofman, executive director of the District of Columbia’s D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority, said users of the district’s DC Health Link exchange have set up about 700 employer accounts. About 1,350 of the employers’ employers are seeking full-price coverage, and about 2,000 are likely to qualify for subsidies, Kofman said.
But Kofman said buying small-group coverage can be complicated and time-consuming, even under the best of circumstances.
“If you’re not working with a broker, you really need to take your time,” Kofman said.
Gary Cohen, the director of the Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight, said CCIIO has tried to work closely with agents and brokers, with the understanding that most small businesses buy coverage through them.
“We need to work really hard to make sure we’re working with the agent-broker community,” Cohen said.
Business owners also discussed problems with trying to get coverage through the SHOP enrollment system.