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N.J.'s small businesses to get early access to Obamacare online marketplace

Posted on 9/10/2014 by EDTP Coordinator in Small Business Policy

New Jersey is one of five states whose small business owners will get early access to an online marketplace for their employees' health and dental insurance.

The early rollout will begin in late October, a few weeks ahead of the Nov. 15 open enrollment period begins, according to an announcement today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The federally facilitated SHOP online marketplace is for employers that have from 1 to 50 employees. It allows them to shop for insurance, designate a broker or agent to act on their behalf, and to upload employee rosters.

Those few weeks of lead time will help a little — but not a lot, said David Oscar, an insurance broker in Fairfield and a spokesman for the New Jersey Association of Health Underwriters.

"Launching early would be, for me, in the next couple of days," he said. "I need to know what's going on by October 1st."

As it stands now, small employers have to fill out a paper application, mail it to the federal marketplace, then receive a letter back confirming eligibility. By allowing early access to the SHOP portal on the federal website, many of those paperwork tasks can be done online instead.

The other states that will get early access are Illinois, Delaware, Missouri and Ohio.

One of the lessons learned from last year's balky start to the Affordable Care Act was the importance of phasing in new portions of the website, according to an official with U.S. Health and Human Services.

By participating in an "incremental rollout," employers and brokers in the five selected states may well discover problems before the system goes nationwide in mid-November.

"That's a scary thought, because we were guinea pigs last fall," said Oscar.

While insurers in other states have been announcing their new rates for their 2015 individual policies, those numbers continue to remain unknown in New Jersey.

Source: www.nj.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2014/09/nj_to_get_early_rollout_of_obamacare_online_tool_for_small_biz.html