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Small businesses may participate in several federally facilitated Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP) exchanges – for example, if an employer has offices in different states – but each small employer is limited to establishing one FF-SHOP account per state.
If an employer has worksites in several states, it may (1) establish an account in each state where the company has a primary work location for workers; or (2) it may establish an account in one state and use that to provide health insurance for all members of the group. If it does establish accounts in several states, it must submit a separate report on the participation rate to each FF-SHOP.
An employer is considered to be a small employer eligible for SHOP coverage if its average number of employees is 50 or fewer. Employers participating in the FF-SHOP must offer coverage to all full-time employees, defined as those working 30 or more hours per week on average.
The SHOP system is a way for employers to help satisfy health reform’s mandate for individuals to obtain coverage or pay extra taxes. Furthermore, most (34 out of 50, not including the District of Columbia) states will house (but not run) FF-SHOP exchanges.
In March 2013, the CMS released final rules that described the 70% participation requirement for small employers. Under those rules, insurers may deny coverage to small employers that fail to meet the minimum participation requirements.
Insurers may impose a 70% workforce participation requirement for small employers to partake in FF-SHOP coverage. In the first open enrollment period (Nov. 15 through Dec. 15, 2013), however, workers can obtain coverage on an interim basis even if an employer falls below the minimum participation amount, according to CMS. On renewal one year later, however, insurers will be able to invoke the participation requirement. State law may impose a different minimum participation requirement. Small employers are required to keep records of coverage held by workers to substantiate minimum participation and to ensure that workers do not have double coverage.
Here are a few other policies small employers will want to know when considering group coverage with an FF-SHOP: