The state of Maryland has been front and center on the launch of open enrollment through the new Obamacare insurance marketplaces on October 1. The week before the launch, President Obama joined Maryland governor Martin O'Malley in Largo, Maryland to boost public awareness of the marketplaces, and he said that if "every governor were working as hard as Governor O’Malley to make the Affordable Care Act work," even more Americans would reap its benefits.
But even as the state concentrates on working on the problems of signing up Marylanders for individual policies, another deadline is approaching. The Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP) is scheduled to kick off January 1, 2014 with coverage to start as early as March. And in the case of businesses, not only will the marketplace function as a place to select coverage, but will be responsible for billing employers and collecting payments on an ongoing basis; the money will then be remitted to the various insurers by SHOP. (Individuals can choose to pay the initial payment through the marketplace or directly to the insurer, but all future billings and payments are between the individual and the insurer.) Elizabeth Charlow, communications manager for SHOP in Maryland, confirmed this in a September email to THE WEEKLY STANDARD:
All employer bills get handled by Maryland Health Connection (federal requirement) regardless of whether it's employee choice or employer choice. Individuals who purchase can make their first premium payment on Maryland Health Connection or they can elect to pay the carrier directly. For all subsequent bills, the carriers would send these to individuals directly.
According to Tequila Terry, director of plan and partner management, the employer would not get multiple bills. The SHOP would aggregate all carrier bills so the employer can make one payment. The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange would then distribute payment to the appropriate carriers on behalf of the employer.
To help businesses in Maryland prepare for their more complex relationships with the marketplace, the Maryland Health Connection had scheduled multiple public forums on SHOP throughout the state. On October 4, the Maryland Chamber Action Network published the following on its website:
Maryland Health Connection Holding Small Business Forums
The Maryland Health Connection will hold a series of small business forums around the state to educate small business owners about the new Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), which enables small businesses and their employees to compare and select from a variety of qualified health plans that suit their needs and budgets. SHOP is a program of Maryland Health Connection, the state’s new online health insurance marketplace.
Attend one of the upcoming forums to learn more about:
• Background of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.
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