Last Wednesday, the Administration announced a new Affordable Care Act implementation delay – online enrollment for small businesses in certain states. Similar to the individual health insurance marketplaces, the ACA provides for new online portals for businesses with 50 or fewer employees and their employees to shop for health insurance – the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP).
Like Healthcare.gov, the federal government has taken responsibility for managing enrollment for small businesses in the 36 states that have chosen not to run their own marketplaces. Since October 1st, those businesses have had to rely on paper applications via insurers, agents, and brokers. With Wednesday’s announcement, which conceded that the Administration is prioritizing a fully-functioning individual marketplace, this process will continue until November 2014.
This follows a delay announced back in April to a requirement that small businesses provide their employees with a choice of plans.
While the landscape may arguably be better for small businesses and their employees in 2014 than it is today, these delays push back the timeline on what might have been – that is, the easy comparison-shopping and variety of options (and the associated cost-savings that come from competition) that were envisioned in the law. In the meantime, we’ll just have to sit tight and hope the Administration’s prioritization of the individual marketplace pays off.