SHOP stands for “Small Business Health Options Program”, which is an on-line Marketplace for small business owners. Unfortunately, is not operational, just like the individual health insurance Marketplace (www.healthcare.gov).
With the Federal Government focusing its efforts this past year on the individual Marketplace, they made the decision to keep the SHOP Exchange off-line, through paper applications and limit the options to one carrier, per small employer.
With that said, there probably won’t be much traction in this offering for 2014, as there are only two carriers in the Fox Valley region even on the SHOP Exchange: Arise Health Plan and Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative (so much for more choices). And neither of these carriers offers the Affinity providers as “in-plan” providers.
With Network Health Plan’s dominance in the small group market through the local Chambers of Commerce, I am seeing most small businesses take advantage of the “early renewal” option and sitting on the sidelines of the ACA for the next year, as the dust settles.
The tax credits for small business (promised through the SHOP) are also proving to be more fluff than meat, as there are prerequisites in order to actually receive the tax credits. These include having to purchase health insurance through the SHOP and having less than 25 FTE’s who make less than $50,000/year.
By the time the calculations to qualify are completed by yourself or your accountant, you’ve either spent an exorbitant amount of time, or spent a lot of accounting time/money for maybe $1,000 of tax credit. My accountant friend said that she had only two clients even be eligible last year, and her entire book of business is employers with less than 50 employees. So, maybe the whole SHOP exchange for small businesses in Wisconsin is “much ado about nothing”?