Blah start to small-biz Obamacare market?

How's business at that big Obamacare marketplace set up to sell health insurance to workers at small businesses?

Don't ask.

Two weeks after the online portion of the federal marketplace for small-business Obamacare insurance finally launched, officials aren't saying how many such companies have used that site to offer health coverage to workers, or even how many employees have taken them up on that offer, a new report says.

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In addition, the federal SHOP exchange, which serves 32 states, still has several technical problems, including one preventing businesses from setting a 90-day waiting period for new employees to buy insurance, and others that have made it difficult for insurance brokers to get into their accounts, The Washington Post reported. The newspaper also said confidential federal documents show that the SHOP exchange is still undergoing testing on some parts of the site.

"More broadly," the Post said, "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."

The portion of the website for employers.
The portion of the website for employers.

The report comes less than a month after it was revealed that enrollment on the federal and state-run SHOP exchanges since they launched last fall has been very, very low.

The Governmental Accountability Office, in its own report in mid-November, underscored how unlikely it is that the Small Business Health Options Program will sign up anything close to the 2 million people that had been projected for January.

As of last summer, only about 76,000 people working for about 12,000 employers had enrolled in insurance plans sold by 18 state-run SHOP exchanges, according to the GAO report. One state, Vermont, accounted for 44 percent of those enrollments. The state has required that all small group health insurance plans there be offered only through SHOP.

While the other SHOP exchanges run by the federal government didn't have enrollment data available for the GAO, officials in charge of them "do not expect major differences in enrollment trends between" the state-run SHOP exchanges and their federally run counterparts, the GAO report said.

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Federal officials also were mum when The Washington Post asked them how many people have signed up through the federal SHOP exchange since it first went online Nov. 15.

That's a contrast to their stance last week, when Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced that more than 1 million people had applied for eligibility for individual insurance plans sold on and that 462,125 people had actually signed up for plans that go into effect in 2015. Burwell even gave a breakdown for how many of those sign-ups were from existing customers, and how many people were new to the federal marketplace.

The Post story noted that the SHOP portion of had 200,000 visits during the first week of operation. The section of that sells individual insurance plans had more than 1.5 million visits during the period.

Read the entire Washington Post story here.