Small Business Exchange Soft Launches in 5 States

October 29, 2014 AT 11:00 AM

The federal initiative intended to help companies with 50 or fewer workers negotiate better deals for employee health coverage was, to a large extent, a casualty of last year’s rocky Obamacare rollout. To prevent a repeat, the White House is giving the plan a head start this year.

In five states, the government has opened partial access to the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) before the Nov. 15 start of this year’s open enrollment period, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said on Monday. That means businesses in Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, and Ohio can set up a SHOP account, select a broker, complete an application to see if they’re eligible, and upload an employee roster. They’ll have to wait until next month to compare prices of plans offered on the small business exchange.

“The users of Early Access are helping us to test the new online features, which will give the SHOP Marketplace important information about the user experience to begin the continuous quality improvement process before the site goes live,” Rhett Buttle, director of private-sector engagement for HHS, wrote in a blog post published yesterday.

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