Access Health CT is redoubling its efforts at offering health insurance coverage to a particularly underserved sector: small businesses.
“For a number of years, our Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) has not received the attention and necessary funding to do what we’ve wanted to do,” said John Carbone, AHCT director of small business and product development. “Our CEO (James Michel) has said multiple times that this is something we need to address.”
As a result, Carbone has activated a new business plan with a dedicated team of four people to help increase the rate of insured small businesses in Connecticut. The plan calls for converting approximately 10% of engagements with those businesses and with insurance brokers into insurance coverage.
SHOP is also promoting an employee participation waiver period, where small businesses with fewer than 50 employees can enroll in a group health insurance plan without meeting a required minimum number of employees. The opportunity is offered only to new groups not currently enrolled in a plan through AHCT Small Business
Carbone said that by eliminating the minimum employee requirement, more small businesses will be able to offer a health insurance benefit they may not otherwise have been able to provide to employees.
Usually, a company is required to have at least 75% of its employees in a SHOP health insurance plan – or be covered in some other way, such as on a spouse’s plan – to be included in a group plan; otherwise their employees may need to find their own coverage elsewhere.
The approach is aimed at “helping to lower the uninsured rate in Connecticut and provide small businesses with another tool to understand the entire marketplace,” Carbone said.
While Access Health ended last year’s open enrollment period with 111,000 persons in the individual market, earlier this year it reported that it covered just 400 small businesses, representing 1,382 people, in SHOP — less than 1% of Connecticut’s small group market. Reasons for the poor performance included insufficient incentives; federal tax incentives offered by the exchange usually last just two years and exclude firms that pay average annual salaries exceeding $50,000.
Although new enrollment figures were not yet available, Carbone said that a recent webinar with brokers explaining SHOP “got some great responses. We had 55 individuals attend the webinar, and over 20 of them asked for in-person meetings afterwards.”
He said AHCT is hoping for a significant uptick on a year-over-year basis with the new push.
SHOP will also introduce a larger marketing campaign after the first of the year, with an eye toward further increasing new enrollments, he said.