Will Maryland’s SHOP Exchange Be Delayed Again?

Workshops to be held by Maryland health officials regarding the state’s SHOP exchange for small-business employers have been canceled, leading many to believe that the small business exchange will be delayed past the scheduled launch date of January 1, 2014.

The SHOP exchange has already been delayed once before; the original launch date had been October 1, 2013.

While the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange did not answer questions specifically pertaining to a SHOP delay, the exchange’s executive director Rebecca Pearce said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that the organization has not been satisfied with the performance of the insurance website or with the pace of improvements.

“In response to our concerns about the site’s performance, our prime contractor, Noridian Healthcare Solutions (“Noridian”) is making a number of changes, including increasing the resources devoted to the project,” said Pearce in a press statement released yesterday. A member of Noridian’s outside PR team redirected FOXBusiness.com to the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange when asked for more information about the project.

In her statement, Pearce said the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange board will meet in the days ahead to address the exchange’s issues.

Ellen Valentino, director of the NFIB in Maryland, says she hasn’t heard any further confirmation about a delay, but suspects one is coming due to the cancellation of the information sessions.

Dane Rianhard, an insurance broker based in Baltimore, has heard the same rumors.

“It leads me to believe it will be delayed,” says Rianhard, who says a former employee who left his firm on good terms is now working at the exchange.

In any case, Rianhard says he was planning to avoid the SHOP exchange. He has heard from insurance provider CareFirst that there will be 52 plans offered outside the small-business exchange in Maryland and only eight plans available through the exchange.