The Obama administration approved Tuesday yet another year-long delay of Obamacare’s small business exchanges for 18 different states.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administers Obamacare, announced in late May that it would allow state insurance commissioners to request an extension for the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, exchanges, and approved every request it received to delay implementation of the SHOP exchanges until 2016.
The SHOP exchanges were supposed to launch along with the individual Obamacare exchanges on Oct. 1, 2013, but the Obama administration initially delayed the SHOP website until November 2014 in order to focus on fixing the problems with HealthCare.gov. The exchanges were supposed to provide an outlet for small businesses to offer their workers a variety of health-insurance options to choose from, called “employee choice,” instead of employers choosing one plan for all their workers.
Just 17 states and the District of Columbia are now operating their own SHOP exchanges. Another 14 states with federally-run exchanges will launch their marketplaces in 2015, after accepting the initial one-year delay from the Obama administration. Individual states have reported low interest and enrollment in the exchanges, which have not been publicized to the same extent as the mainstay individual Obamacare marketplaces, but the federal government is not collecting national sign-up information.
According to CMS, states were given the option to delay creating a small business exchange if officials decided that foregoing the exchange “would be in the best interest of small group market consumers” in the state. But some small businesses are upset that they’re being cast aside while struggling federal and state officials work to get individual Obamacare exchanges running for the second enrollment period.
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia are the only states remaining without a promised SHOP exchange for small business employees.