The small-group public exchange division in Colorado is now a noticeable blip on the state’s commercial health insurance market radar.

In spite of technical and administrative problems, the Connect for Health Colorado Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) team has signed about 304 employers with 2,519 covered lives, and an average of 8.5 lives per case, according to an exchange board meeting report.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has not released any official activity data, let alone sales data, for Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) SHOP plans.

Unofficial enrollment data from Charles Gaba, a blogger who runs ACASignups.net, suggests that the SHOP program may have a total of fewer than 80,000 enrollees, and that SHOP enrollment may account for less than 0.5 percent of the 17 million enrollees in fully insured small-group plans.

Colorado SHOP qualified health plans (QHPs) now covers about 1 percent of the state’s fully insured small-group enrollees.

  • The exchange has 1,480 certified brokers. Brokers brought in 65 percent of the employers in the SHOP program and 79 percent of the covered lives.
  • The average monthly premium is $364 per life and plan sponsors are paying an average of 67 percent of the premiums.
  • Only 52 percent of the employers offer dependent coverage, but 11 percent of the SHOP enrollees are spouses or partners and 20 percent are children.

Originally, exchange managers had hoped to bring in 1,000 employers with 8,000 covered lives. SHOP managers say obstacles to meeting sales goals included the fact that a broker had to put in too much information to generate a quote; lack of important enrollment website features, such as the lack of ability to report an enrollee life change online; and delays with getting applicants enrolled.

The SHOP managers say they have tried to fix those problems by offering brokers a stand-alone quick quote tool; improving the application process flow; and changing employee screens so that more information is available to employers, service center workers and brokers. For 2015, the enrollment system will offer a participation reporting dashboard for brokers, a tool for reporting life change events, and training messages.

Goals for 2015 include recruiting more benefits brokers and managing general agents, courting the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), and engaging property & casualty brokers, managers say.

The managers also are trying to develop a Web interface for the managing general agents.