The Obama Administration announced yesterday, September 26, 2013, that it will be delaying the online enrollment for small business owners in the federally-facilitated health insurance marketplace (“Marketplace”), as provided for under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) until November 2013. 

According to a press release, Launching the Small Business Health Option Program Marketplace, released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), the Small Business Health Option Program (“SHOP”) Marketplace “is designed for small employers with 50 or fewer full-time employees… The SHOP offers small employers quality brand name health insurance plans and lets them make side-by-side comparisons when choosing a coverage option that is right for their business.” The same press release vaguely stated that “[a]ll functions for SHOP will be available in November.” According to reports, and confirmed by a press briefing by White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, some of the functions will not be ready on October 1, 2013, as originally planned. For example, small businesses will not be able to compare plans online or submit online applications until November. In response to an inquiry during the press briefing, Mr. Carney stated “when it comes to SHOP, the small business piece of this, you can sign up for tax credits right away.  And then when the online portion comes online, you can do the plan comparison beginning November 1st, as I understand it.”

Additionally, during a speech earlier yesterday, President Obama stated “[l]ike any law, like any big product launch, there are going to be some glitches as this thing unfolds…But somewhere around the country, there’s going to be a computer glitch and the website’s not working quite the way it’s supposed to, or something happens where there’s some error made somewhere — that will happen.  That happens whenever you roll out a new program.  And I guarantee you, the opponents of the law, they’ll have their cameras ready to document anything that doesn’t go completely right, and they’ll send it to the news folks and they’ll say, look at this, this thing is not working.”

Some states operating their own health insurance marketplaces have begun to announce similar delays including, for example, Maryland and Oregon.

Posted by Jennifer K. Shanley

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