As the federally-run Small Business Health Option Program, or SHOP exchanges, go live across the board in November, brokers on the front lines of the exchanges aren't sure how interested employers are going to be in the option. A number of small-group employers are already planning to send their employees to the Affordable Care Act's individual exchanges, rather than utilize SHOP, which the ACA has set up for employer groups of 50 or fewer full-time employees.

Kelly Fristoe, owner of Financial Partners in Wichita Falls, Texas, is wary of the fact that his state's SHOP exchange only has one insurance company participating at this point. Rather than deal with potential consequences of that, he is steering his small-group clients interested in the exchange market toward the individual plans. "We've had some small-group customers - not a lot - telling us that they're going to dump their plan and send their employees to the individual market," says Fristoe, president of the Texas Association of Health Underwriters. "So we've made some arrangements with those employers to be able to be the agent that sits with those employees. They're going to let us have time with their employees to educate them on purchasing insurance through the marketplace and qualifying for a subsidy."

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