HHS Regional Director: Small Businesses Can File for Health Coverage Electronically

Unemployed Atlantic City casino workers are signing up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Regional Director Jackie Cornell-Bechelli told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) can now be filed electronically.

Cornell-Bechelli said that she thinks the mass unemployment can change the perception people have about the necessity of the Affordable Care Act. She said that unemployment was one of the reasons the act was created. She said that people can apply for coverage if they have lost it through their employer. She said that it is important to know as well that if someone has had a baby or gotten divorced, those people can get health insurance under the special enrollment period as well.

The state’s small businesses are getting fast-tracked to sign up for health care through the online marketplace, SHOP, a few weeks ahead of the November open enrollment period for Obamacare. New Jersey was chosen as one of the five states to have early enrollment in SHOP. Cornell-Bechelli said that is because it was important to small business owners.

Last year, paperwork had to be filed for SHOP and now it is electronic. Cornell-Bechelli said that it wasn’t electronic from the beginning because there were some issues that they wanted to make sure that they were tackling in the larger independent market before individuals began signups. She said that they took this year as an opportunity to give the small businesses the access to go online and be ready for Nov. 15.

“We are confident that we have ironed out all of the kinks before it goes live. But obviously this is an opportunity for us to do some testing,” said Cornell-Bechelli about the SHOP program.

Cornell-Bechelli said that the benefits of SHOP are great not only for the small business owners but for the employees. It allows employers to look at the plans and make decisions with their employees in mind.

New Jersey has not announced rates for individual policies but other states have. Cornell-Bechelli said that is because New Jersey is on the federal plan. She said that rates will be outlined in early November.

When asked if the Affordable Care Act reached its enrollment goals in New Jersey, Cornell-Bechelli said that incredible work was done in the state. She said that last year the state exceeded its goals with more than 160,000 people on the individual marketplace and through the expansion of Medicaid and the children’s program had over a quarter of a million New Jerseyans. She said that there is still work to do but great strides have been made.