October 28, 2013
Beginning January 1, 2014, small businesses having no more than fifty full-time-equivalent workers will be able to obtain healthinsurance for their employees through Small Business Health OptionsProgram (SHOP) exchanges in every state. Although the Affordable Care Act intended the exchanges to make the purchasing of insurance moreattractive and affordable to small businesses, it is not yet known how they will respond to the exchanges. Based on a telephone survey of 604 randomly selected private firms having 3 -- 50 employees, we found that both firms that offered health coverage and those that did not rated most features of SHOP exchanges highly but were also very price sensitive.More than 92 percent of nonoffering small firms said that if they were to offer coverage, it would be "very" or "somewhat" important to them that premium costs be less than they are today. Eighty percent of offering firms use brokers who commonly perform functions of benefit managers -- functions that the SHOP exchanges may assume. Twenty-six percent of firms using brokers reported discussing self-insuring with their brokers. An increase in the number of self-insured small employers could pose a threat to SHOP exchanges and other small-group insurance reforms.