WASHINGTONThe Obama administration's delay by one year online enrollment for small businesses looking to purchase healthcare coverage for their workers through the federally operated insurance exchanges has prompted the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) to call the decision yet another onerous paperwork requirement for job creators.
Starting this year, the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, marketplace is open to employers with 50 or fewer full-time workers and allows those businesses to compare health plans.
The latest delay affects employers located in the 36 states where the U.S. government is running health insurance exchanges. It does not cover the small business options in the 14 states and the District of Columbia that operate their own exchanges.
The administration said last fall that it would delay online enrollment in SHOP through the federal exchange until November this year. Small businesses can sign up immediately, however, through an insurer, agent or broker in 2014, according to a Health and Human Services official. The move is intended to allow small employers to sign up for coverage while the CMS continues to work on improving the online experience in the SHOP marketplace on HealthCare.gov.
HHS also said small businesses no longer have to apply to be certified before enrolling in a SHOP plan. Because the application was intended for tax credit purposes, HHS will allow businesses to file the application any time before the business files its taxes.
In the NFIB's response to the announced delay, Kevin Kuhlman, manager of legislative affairs, said the delay is a disappointment but not a surprise. Small businesses continue to be low on the priority list during the Obamacare implementation process.
...The continued delays add to uncertainty and contribute to the decision of many owners to take early renewals of their small-group plans.
Some supporters of the healthcare law expressed frustration with the new delay, the latest in a string of setbacks for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but said they still support the broad goal of making it easier for small businesses to shop and secure health care coverage for workers.
John Arensmeyer, president of the Small Business Majority, a nonprofit that supports the ACA, said the delay doesn't change the fact that the marketplace can offer the most competitive combination of price and quality for small businesses purchasing health insurance.
This article compiles information from Tire Business and sister publications Modern Healthcare and Automotive News.