The latest Health Policy Brief update from Health Affairs and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, published February 6, describes the new marketplaces created for small businesses to buy cheaper coverage more easily. These exchanges were created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). Employers with fewer than 25 employees must purchase coverage through a SHOP if they want the small-business tax credit. This policy brief discusses the potential impact of the problems with the online exchange systems on health benefits offered by small employers.

The preceding Health Policy Brief update, published January 23, describes the current status of the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) program especially now that ACA implementation has begun. Because of funding cuts, one CO-OP was disbanded, and now 23 remain in 23 states. An updated partial list of approved CO-OPs and their sponsoring organizations is included. This policy brief discusses CO-OP funding, competency, competitive premium rates, and provision of care. Despite its early success, the next steps will be to see how many people the CO-OPs are able to enroll, whether their premium rates are sustainable, and their plans offer the same quality of care as the commercial market.

Health Policy Briefs are aimed at policy makers, congressional staffers, and others needing short, jargon-free explanations of health policy basics. Sign up for an e-mail alert about upcoming briefs. The briefs are also available from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s website. Please feel free to forward the briefs to any of your colleagues who are tracking health issues. And after you’ve taken a look, we welcome your feedback at: hpbrief@healthaffairs.org.