- The Washington Times - Friday, June 27, 2014

A Missouri congressman said Friday he is fed up with the Obama administration for failing to provide him with enrollment numbers for Obamacare’s small-business exchanges.

Rep. Sam Graves, a Republican who chairs the House Small Business Committee, sent letters to the Health and Human Services Department in January and this month requesting the figures. An agency response this week provided various details about the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), but no sign-up data.

“The mismanagement of the Small Business Health Options program is very frustrating,” Mr. Graves said. “The administration isn’t able to answer even the most basic questions about the program’s enrollment or its progress.”

The small-business exchange was supposed to be a breezy way for employers to browse insurance plans and purchase coverage for their employees.

But online SHOP enrollment was delayed by one year on the federal exchange system that serves about three dozen states.

Additionally, 18 states have decided not to move forward in 2015 with employee choice, which allows to choose from any health plan at the actuarial value, or “metal,” level that has been selected by their employer on the SHOP.

Some exchanges had their state-run SHOPs ready on time. Washington, D.C., for example, enrolled thousands of Congress members and staff who were required to get their health care through the exchanges.

Most of the Obamacare focus has been on the ups and downs of enrollment on the individual-market side of things, but more attention will shift to the SHOP’s progress as the law’s second enrollment period approaches.

“Going back to last year, the program’s delays and lack of choices have contributed to headache after headache for small businesses who are trying to follow all of the twists and turns of the program,” Mr. Graves said. “It’s astonishing how little information has been disclosed about a law in which the taxpayers are investing billions. What is the administration hiding?”

As for enrollment figures, the government has said the delay has to do with how the data is collected.

Earlier this month, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) told The Washington Times that “since businesses do not need to apply for SHOP eligibility before enrolling, CMS doesn’t generate the enrollment data itself.”

“Instead, we will collect it from insurance companies under a new process being finalized with insurers,” he said. “As a result, we don’t anticipate having federal Marketplace SHOP enrollment data until later this year.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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