Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Small Employers Told to Stay off Health Website

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Small Employers Told to Stay off Health Website

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration on Wednesday announced a one-year delay in a major element of the new health care law that would allow small businesses to buy insurance online for their employees through the new federal marketplace.

It was yet another setback for the rollout of the health care law and resulted, in part, from the well-documented problems of the insurance marketplace website. Administration officials said they had to focus on the basic functions of the website, so that individuals could shop for insurance, before offering online enrollment for small businesses. In the meantime, businesses and their employees can apply through brokers.

Many employees of small businesses are uninsured, and the businesses themselves are much less likely than big companies to provide coverage to workers and their families.

The latest delay, coming just as the White House was boasting of major improvements in the health insurance website, HealthCare.gov, opens the door to more complaints about the health care law and could increase pressure to delay other provisions.

"The president bit off more than he can chew with this health care law, and small businesses are now forced to bear the consequences," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "Business owners across the country are already having health care plans for their employees canceled by this law, and now they're told they won't have access to the system the president promised them to find different coverage. Instead, they'll have to resort to a system you'd expect to see in the 1950s."

It was the second delay for small businesses. The administration had previously delayed online enrollment for them to the end of this month from Oct. 1.

The date has now been pushed backed to November 2014 for coverage that takes effect in January 2015, according to the Health and Human Services Department.

The announcement, just before Thanksgiving, was reminiscent of the way the White House announced, just before the Fourth of July weekend, a one-year delay in the requirement for larger employers to offer health insurance to employees.

The marketplace for small businesses -- the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP exchange -- was one of the few provisions of the 2010 law with some Republican support, and it was originally championed by Sen. …

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