The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 11/28/2013 3:15 AM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 11/28/2013 3:21 AM
CHICAGO - Small businesses interested in buying marketplace health insurance plans for their workers will have to purchase them from agents, brokers or insurance companies for the next year, rather than through the government website.
The Obama administration, in yet another delay, is putting off the launch of its online portal to the health insurance marketplace for small businesses until November 2014.
The move, announced Wednesday, was needed because repairs are still underway to the troubled HealthCare.gov website, which is the primary way for individuals to apply for insurance, and that has priority, federal officials said.
The administration said the plan will still allow small businesses to buy coverage while avoiding a slowdown in technical repairs to the hobbled federal online site.
Under the law, most small businesses do not have to provide coverage. But companies with 50 or more employees face a mandate to offer insurance or risk fines from the government in 2015.
The HealthCare.gov site, where individuals without employer-sponsored health care can shop for insurance, is now smoothly handling 25,000 users at the same time and is on track to meet its goal of handling 50,000 simultaneous users by Saturday, administration spokeswoman Julie Bataille said. "We have a lot of work left to do in the next few days," she added.
The small business marketplace, also called SHOP, was supposed to provide employers a new way to shop for coverage. The website was to make comparison shopping easier while promoting competition and keeping premiums down. The delay, which doesn't affect states running their own marketplaces, was met with frustration.
"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," said John Arensmeyer, CEO of Small Business Majority, an advocacy group that supports the health care law. "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."
The National Retail Federation, which has been working to ease the law's requirements for its members, was less generous.
"If the law is so burdensome for the administration to implement, just think how hard it is for small businesses, which are focused on growing a company, hiring new employees and assisting customers," Neil Trautwein, the group's top health policy official, said in a statement.
Ohio's insurance director, Mary Taylor, a Republican who is also lieutenant governor, said in a written statement that the delay adds to the struggles of small businesses and "only further complicates an already chaotic insurance market."
Small businesses buying coverage will still be eligible for tax credits to bring down the cost, according to the administration. Starting next year, small businesses can claim a credit of up to 50 per cent of their contributions to premiums for insurance purchased through the SHOP, and the administration is telling business owners that buying marketplace plans through brokers, agents and insurers will count for that tax credit.
Wednesday's setback was the latest in a stream of missed deadlines, including a postponement for a Spanish-language sign-up tool announced this week. The administration also recently pushed back the enrolment deadline for individuals: People who sign up by Dec. 23 can get coverage that starts on Jan. 1. In an earlier delay, businesses with more than 50 workers were given until 2015 to meet the requirement to provide health insurance without paying a penalty. And the deadline date for individuals to avoid penalties for failing to get coverage was pushed back six weeks.
Last week, the administration also announced a schedule change in next year's open enrolment season. It will start on Nov. 15, 2014, a month later than originally scheduled, and finish on Jan. 15, 2015, about five weeks later than originally scheduled. The midterm congressional elections are Nov. 4, and congressional Republicans accused the administration of shifting the dates for political reasons, to hide any spike in 2015 premiums.
The administration earlier had announced it will allow insurance companies to extend for another year coverage under individual policies that don't meet new coverage requirements. That move was a response to anger over a wave of more than 4 million policy cancellations.
The series of delays was seized upon by Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., chairman of the House Small Business Committee.
"In the midst of the angst and uncertainty that small businesses and Americans feel about Obamacare, today's news of yet another last-minute delay is just more proof that the law is unworkable and bad for small businesses," Graves said in a statement.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
ISIL mission to extend, expand after MPs vote
Demolitions planned to make way for new Hydro substation
Terror bill changes not enough for critics
Does Canada have the stomach for war?
Trudeau's museum sketch boosts party donations
Rapist out on parole when he attacked again, court hears
Goldeyes welcome two new pitchers
Extra lump sum award coming for wounded vets
Marathon bombing jurors see carnage photos, prosecutors rest
Cliffhanger in early returns from Nigeria presidential vote
No 'narsisstics': Music festivals ban fans' selfie sticks
Tories want internal CFS report on Tina Fontaine released
Jets trying to put tough loss against Hawks behind them
Two men from Kenora killed in snowmobile collision around Hillock Creek, off Hwy 71
Deadline extended for True North to finalize deal for 220 Carlton site
Semi-trailer rollover on McGillivray and Perimeter
Scientists say Internet and ADHD connected, but they can't... ooh, shiny thing!
Study finds quarter of hockey helmets tested unsafe
Ex-director faces theft charge
Trevor Noah set to replace Jon Stewart on 'The Daily Show'
Here are seven things to do in Winnipeg next week
Portage Terriers goalie Justin Laforest posts high save percentage in MJHL
Using sex to recruit for college sports
Five charged after drugs seized in The Pas
Co-pilot was treated for suicidal tendencies years ago
Man fined for publishing victim's name
RRC instructor's attacker charged with breaching probation
Students to protest U of W's fossil fuel holdings
Plane was airborne again after initial impact
Pull suicide into light of day
Pulling rails possible - but one certainty is feds would need to pony up
Simmons wins again at men's curling worlds
Lawless in the Morning (March 30): Jets believe they belong
108th Winter Fair kicks off in Brandon today
Ski safety an uphill battle
Come see new bear on spring break
The first rule of art appreciation is to talk about art
Rhino rampages in Nepal city, killing 1 and injuring several
Winnipeg's budget, recycled
Apartment unit in Village firm’s latest success