SHOP exchanges face sluggish adoption, technical glitches

States work to improve functionality, offerings

The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchanges were meant to drive down costs and boost enrollment. But the program, part of the Affordable Care Act, has yet to reap anticipated rewards.

The Washington Post outlines some of the problems:

States struggle with slow adoption

In the District of Columbia, for example, the number of consumers who have purchased health insurance through a SHOP exchange is lagging behind the number who have signed up on the District's exchange, The Post notes.

When Washington state saw a similar lack of interest last year, it abandoned its online small-business site and relaunched its online SHOP exchange earlier this month. And nearly three dozen states have defaulted to the federal government's small-business exchange, the article notes. 

Technical glitches

The state SHOP exchanges are no strangers to the technical glitches that have plagued the federal In Maryland, a botched state-run exchange was given priority over establishing an online small-business exchange. Meanwhile, many Maryland small-business employers were forced to apply for coverage using paper applications, according to The Post.

Delays, lack of choice

Last year, the option for small businesses to shop for and purchase plans online was delayed by at least a year in most states, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. This year, the option for businesses to allow their employees to choose from more than one plan has been put on hold. That could also stymie growth. 

But there are positive signs for the future of SHOP exchanges.

For instance, in the District, new features to the online process will make it easier for employees to update their information. What's more, those perusing the District's exchange will be allowed more flexibility throughout the entire process and will have the option to hand the process over to a licensed broker, the article notes.

Despite the ups and downs of the SHOP exchange, "nearly all state-based SHOP marketplaces attracted enough competition to offer small employers and employees a choice of insurers and plans, across a range of coverage levels and in nearly every county," a Commonwealth Fund study found earlier this year. 

For more:
- here's the article

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