Closing up the SHOP portal

Covered California has pulled the plug on its online section for small business, referring would-be customers to paper applications.

California SHOP marketplace tax credit infoThe online takedown is the second in less than a week, following removal of the state Obamacare operation’s physician listings, which were found to have numerous errors.

“The SHOP portal was not meeting the needs of agents or small employers and needed improvements,” said Covered California chief Peter Lee said Feb. 12, the same day the service came offline.

The news came two days after the Obama administration delayed the federal coverage mandate for businesses with 50 to 99 employees.

The service will return in the fall, Covered California said on its blog. The Small Business Health Options Program was late in going up last fall, as well, leaving companies little time to enroll for the December deadline.

“To date, the vast majority of SHOP enrollments have been submitted using paper applications,” Covered California said.

As of Jan. 31, 571 groups were enrolled in Covered California’s SHOP, representing 4,490 individuals. SHOP is processing an additional 200 group applications, Covered California said.

Small-business owners with one to 50 eligible employees are eligible to apply for Covered California’s SHOP plans and the likely federal tax credit. The Affordable Care Act contains provisions for helping small businesses offer coverage to their workers.

Covered California phone agents will continue to sell policies via Blue Shield of California, Chinese Community Health Plan, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente, Sharp Health Plan and Western Health Advantage.

Under the Affordable Care Act, businesses with more than 50 workers were supposed to provide health care coverage this year, or face fines. Earlier, the government delayed that requirement until 2015. The latest delay — for companies with 50 to 99 employees — means coverage needn’t be offered until Jan. 1, 2016.

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