Brokers interested in developments of the federally facilitated Small Business Health Options Program, known as SHOP, have an update, at least when it comes to their registration. Training for benefit brokers and agents hoping to enroll small business employers on the roughly 37 state SHOP exchanges that will be operated through Healthcare.gov for 2015 will commence in July, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

See related: SHOP is a flop for brokers across the nation

The training date was announced May 27 by the agency in a list of 16 frequently asked questions, which also clarifies that all agents and brokers who want to participate in the SHOP marketplace must complete all required registration requirements, including the privacy and security agreement housed on the Medicare Learning Network (MLN) by Nov. 15 of this year. Agents and brokers enrolling employers for the plan year 2015 must also be identity proofed on the CMS Enterprise Portal in order to gain access to the online SHOP marketplace portal.

CMS said Friday that agents and brokers who completed registration for the 2014 plan year should complete annual registration activities by Sept. 30, 2014 in order to avoid a potential lapse in their registration status for the 2015 open enrollment season.

Advisers participating only in the federally facilitated SHOPs, and not the federally facilitated marketplace (FFM) for the individual market, are not required to complete training — “but it is strongly encouraged,” CMS adds.

The agency also clarifies that the SHOP marketplace will not validate national producer numbers provided by agents and brokers, adding that “it is the issuer's responsibility to make sure that agents and brokers appointed with them hold a current and valid state health insurance license.”

Beginning in 2015, the agency says, employers in the SHOP marketplace will be able to change the broker authorized to act on their behalf no more than two times within the same plan year, which advisers should be aware of when advising clients. Employers can make these changes through the SHOP online portal or by calling the SHOP call center.

Agents are not authorized to make changes to SHOP broker relationships with employer groups, only employers are, the agency adds.

CMS says it will be conducting a “robust” technical assistance and education effort with agents and brokers to inform and train them on the tools available through the SHOP marketplace in 2015.

During the 2014 open enrollment season for the federally facilitated SHOP, brokers and agents could enroll small businesses by paper application or call center, but not via Web registration. CMS announced in October that the online portal would be postponed until 2015. The agency has not yet released enrollment numbers for SHOP in 2014.

See related: Lawmakers upset by HHS silence on SHOP enrollment numbers

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