On Wednesday, October 15, 2014, Business Forward hosted a discussion with Rhett Buttle, the Director of Private Sector Engagement at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Mr. Buttle began by providing background on the Affordable Care Act and then opened the line for questions. During Mr. Buttle’s discussion of the Affordable Care Act, he stated that there are three “big buckets” to think about when discussing its implementation: (1) affordability, (2) access and (3) quality.

Additionally, Mr. Buttle emphasized that, because of the Affordable Care Act, entrepreneurs can run their businesses without fear of losing employer-based coverage. Specifically, he stated that it is critical to have options for coverage for business owners and their employees. Mr. Buttle noted that the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), which was created under the Affordable Care Act, is a vehicle for providing this coverage.  According to Mr. Buttle, HHS is conducting outreach to increase the awareness of SHOP.  Additionally, HHS is implementing a SHOP early access pilot program in late October in five states: (1) Delaware, (2) Illinois, (3) New Jersey, (4) Ohio and (5) Missouri. As part of the pilot program, small business owners will be able to establish a SHOP account, assign an agent/broker, complete SHOP eligibility determinations, estimate tax credit eligibility and upload employee rosters. Employers will also be able to browse plans and pricing as soon as these are available in November, allowing them to begin planning offers for coverage that begins in 2015. Mr. Buttle stated that HHS is “doubling down on testing” prior to November 15, 2014, when the SHOP Marketplace will launch nationwide.

Mr. Buttle ended his background discussion by advocating the following resources for small business owners:

If your small business has 50 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, you can use the SHOP Marketplace to offer your employees health coverage. Starting in 2016, SHOPs will be open to employers with up to 100 FTEs.

Small business owners should evaluate the Affordable Care Act’s potential impact on their businesses and determine whether the SHOP is an option they want to pursue.

Posted by Jennifer K. Shanley

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