The Obama administration on Wednesday announced a one-year delay in an Affordable Care Act provision allowing small businesses to compare insurance policies and enroll their workers in health plans through the federal Obamacare website. Administration stressed that small businesses will still be able to enroll their employees in marketplace plans through insurance agents and brokers.
The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) marketplace is a major Obamacare component intended to make it easier for small businesses, which have difficulty finding affordable health coverage and often forgo such benefits entirely, to provide their workers with insurance. Small firms can use the SHOP marketplace to identify suitable coverage options and companies with less than 25 full-time employees who have average salaries less than $50,000 per year can receive federal subsidies that help them pay for the plans — but they’ll have to go through the process offline for the time being.
“We plan to offer online enrollment capability by November 2014, for coverage that takes effect in January 2015,” said administration officials.
According to the New York Times, the delay is mostly a consequence of ongoing — but improving — problems with the Healthcare.gov website that made it difficult to devote appropriate resources to fix similar issues with the SHOP marketplace.
“It’s disappointing that the online portion of the federal small business marketplace through Healthcare.gov will be delayed and it’s important it get up and running as soon as possible,” wrote Small Business Majority CEO John Arensmeyer in a statement. “However, it doesn’t change the fact that the marketplace can offer the most competitive combination of price and quality for small businesses purchasing health insurance.”