SHOP Exchange Continues to Flounder

Published December 1, 2014

Yesterday’s Washington Post has a story regarding the general failure of Obamacare’s SHOP exchanges to expand health coverage. A sample:


A year after the Obama administration temporarily shelved an unfinished part of intended for small businesses, it has opened with reports of only modest technical flaws — but with doubts that it will soon benefit the millions of workers at little companies with inadequate health insurance or none at all.

Insurance brokers are, at times, having trouble getting into their accounts and, in scattered cases, are not showing up in the computer system’s lists of local insurance professionals available to coach small businesses. More broadly, interviews with brokers and others suggest that, in the two weeks since the marketplace’s health plans went on sale for 2015, interest within the niche they are intended to help seems scant…

Federal health officials have declined to say how many people bought them for 2014. In the 18 states that run their own small-business marketplaces, 76,000 people were enrolled as of June — a small fraction of the 2 million SHOP customers this year that congressional budget analysts estimated in their most recent forecast…

It’s an interesting read, and demonstrates just how poorly the people who put Obamacare together understood the needs of small businesses, or health insurance. Or basic economics for that matter.

The story is missing one usual component of these types of stories however, which is the standard quote from a spokesperson for HHS, or CMS, or the White House, demonstrating just how disconnected they are from reality. Something along the lines of “HHS spokesperson Beltway Bob said ‘The SHOP exchange is giving affordable choices and options to millions of small business owners and their employees that didn’t exist before passage of Obamacare,'” (after you recognize the form, it’s pretty easy to mimic).

Instead it looks like something with a glimmer of genuine insight snuck through:

“It is an emerging market,” said Andy Slavitt, CMS’s principal deputy administrator. “I don’t know how long it takes new offerings to ramp [up] and accelerate.”

It’s not exactly “Hey, we really had no clue what we were doing when the SHOP exchanges were crammed into this mess, and we bungled the Web site too,” and it still demonstrates a complete ignorance of the matter at hand (health insurance for small business is hardly an ’emerging market’) but Slavitt’s comments at least beat the standard response.