As President Donald Trump and his administration continue to vow to dismantle Obamacare, it looks like the Affordable Care Act’s small business enrollment program is nearing its end.
Reports this week said the Trump administration is blaming low enrollment numbers in the program for their proposal to end it next year. The program allows small businesses to enroll their employees in health insurance plans via HealthCare.gov, set up under the ACA, and to purchase those plans directly from its online marketplace. Fewer than 233,000 small business workers are covered under the program, according to reports, exceedingly lower than the four million it had planned to cover as projected by the Congressional Budget Office in 2014.
“The ACA has failed to provide affordable insurance to small businesses and to the American People,” said Seema Verma, administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). “The new direction will help employers find affordable healthcare coverage for their employees and make SHOP [Small Business Health Options Program Marketplace] exchanges function more effectively.”
The SHOP program is currently available to businesses with 50 full-time employees or fewer.
The Trump administration proposed this week to allow small businesses in 33 states that are already using HealthCare.gov for the SHOP program to still use it to determine eligibility, but would have to purchase health insurance directly from providers, or from a health insurance agent or broker, reports said. The CMA added that employers would be able to continue their premium payments until current plans run out and would have to purchase insurance from providers directly to renew their plans.
“Our goal is to reduce ACA burdens on consumers and small businesses and make it easier for them to purchase coverage,” Verma added.
In an interview with Washington Business Journal, Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center on Health Insurance Reforms described the move as “practical.”
“I think this is a purely practical decision that reflects the fact that carriers are deciding to drop out of the SHOP,” she said. “The truth is these SHOP marketplaces, with the exception of D.C. and Vermont, never got off the ground. If you don’t have carriers, you don’t have a market.”
But not everyone is on board.
Advocacy group The Small Business Majority said it was “very disappointed” in the proposal, telling CNBC that it is “just one more example of how the Trump administration would rather undo key parts of the Affordable Care Act that are good for small businesses, their employees, their families.”
Research from the National Federation of Independent Business shows 60 percent of independent business owners would like for the Affordable Care Act to be repealed.