The Washington Times - March 27, 2013, 07:54AM


A House Republican leader wants the Obama administration to explain delays in the roll-out of health insurance marketplaces designed to help small businesses shop for health plans under the federal health care law.


Committee on Small Business Chairman Sam Graves, of Missouri, said impediments to the employee-choice facet of the health exchanges would limit businesses’ ability to choose the best insurance for their needs, leading to less competition and potentially higher premiums.

The exchanges in question are called Small Business Health Options Programs (SHOPs) and mirror the insurance marketplaces that will allow people without employer-based insurance to browse and purchase insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. Both exchanges are set to debut in 2014.

Mr. Graves argues that a proposal by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) on March 1 to delay the SHOPs would restrict employers’ ability to select among a breadth of qualified health plans (QHPs).

“For many years, small business owners have cited the cost of health insurance as one of their most pressing problems,” Mr. Graves said in a letter on Wednesday to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “One of the reasons small business owners were promised that costs would drop was the competition ensured by the law’s SHOPs.”

The employers’ market place is taking on increased importance as House Republicans cry foul over the employer mandate in the health care law, which requires companies of more than 50 full-time employees to provide adequate health insurance or face penalties.

The mandate’s definitions and calculations of who qualifies as a full-time worker has led to criticism from fast-food chains and other businesses, prompting business advocates to say the mandate will compel firms to slow hiring to stay below the 50-employee threshold.

While he is pushing for the timely implementation of Mr. Obama’s reforms, Mr. Graves did reissue his opposition to the law as a whole. 

His position reflects that of many Republicans in Congress, who are needling the administration on various facets of the law instead of chasing a wholesale repeal. The Supreme Court upheld the law in June, and Mr. Obama’s reelection in November put a serious dent in the GOP’s hopes of eliminating the overhaul.

“But because it is now law,” Mr. Graves. said, “many small entities are struggling to comply with it.”