We are very disappointed the Trump administration recently announced they are proposing to sunset online enrollment for the federal Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) marketplaces. If the proposal is finalized, after Nov. 15 small businesses would only be able to window-shop for SHOP coverage through Healthcare.gov and would instead have to enroll by using a broker or buying directly from an insurance company. Forcing small employers to make this extra effort just to enroll in SHOP will make it likely that SHOP usage dwindles to little or nothing.
As disappointing as this proposal is, it does not come as a surprise since the success of SHOP has not been a priority. Thanks to delays of key SHOP provisions like implementation of employee choice and lack of efforts to ensure the SHOP marketplaces are robust and competitive, the program has not been nearly as successful as we had hoped.
We know from Small Business Majority’s scientific opinion polling that small businesses support key features of SHOP, including employee choice and the small-business tax credits. By removing the online enrollment functionality, the employee choice feature will become all but impossible for employers to utilize and it will become more difficult to take advantage of the small business tax credit, which is a setback for small businesses.
We believe SHOP still has the potential to be an important tool to help small businesses access quality and comprehensive health coverage, but only if this administration makes it a priority to bolster the program and recognize the challenges small businesses face in accessing coverage.
Unfortunately, this proposal is just one more example of how the Trump administration would rather undo key parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that are good for small businesses, their employees and their families, rather than focus on improving and strengthening the health care law.
John Arensmeyer is founder and CEO of Small Business Majority, a national advocacy organization for small businesses.