Feds: Enrollment In Obamacare’s Small Business Exchanges Is Shockingly Low

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The number of small businesses participating in Obamacare’s is shockingly low, according to a federal audit of the program.

In the 18 states that run their own Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchanges, just 12,000 small businesses have opted into Obamacare’s small business exchanges, signing up 76,000 employees, accordng to an audit by the General Accountability Office. The Obama administration runs another 33 SHOP exchanges, but they don’t yet know how many people have signed up.

The Congressional Budget Office had projected that 2 million employees would buy SHOP coverage in 2014.

SHOP exchanges were included in the health-care law to allow employers with 100 or fewer workers to offer their employees a choice of plans on the exchange and to take advantage of a tax credit available to the employers who use the marketplace. But the GAO reports that the credit is too small and too “administratively complex,” for it to be worth it for employers to take the time to sign up.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services runs the remaining 33 SHOP exchanges, but they don’t yet know how many people have signed up. The Obama administration is “in the process” of getting enrollment data from insurance companies and told the GAO it expects to have the information by early 2015.

CMS said it expects federal sign-up data to be similar to the total for state-run exchanges. If the 33 federal SHOP exchanges have enrolled customers at the same rate as the state exchanges, that would bring the total up to around 215,000 people total — just over 10 percent of the CBO’s estimate of 2 million enrollees this year.

“Obamacare’s SHOPs have been fraught with errors and high costs from the beginning,” said Rep. Sam Graves, chairman of the House Small Business Committee, which commissioned the report. “We have seen that costs are increasing for nearly two-thirds of small businesses that provide health insurance to their employees and the majority of small business owners paid more per employee for health insurance in 2013 than in 2012.” 

The Obama administration drastically dropped its projection of Obamacare’s total enrollment through 2015 just last week. The CBO had projected 13 million sign-ups in the individual Obamacare exchanges by the end of the second open enrollment period, but Health and Human Services scaled that estimate back to just over 9 million.

Close to 1 million people have dropped coverage they signed up for on the individual exchanges, including, during Obamacare’s first enrollment period, the Obama administration announced last week. (RELATED: Obama Administration Slashes Next Year’s Obamacare Enrollment Expectations) 

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Sarah Hurtubise