October 31, 2013
During Tuesday's hearing on the issues surrounding healthcare.gov's launch, chief of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Marilyn Tavenner revealed that the launch for the small business component of the website has, once again, been delayed, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. Original plans set the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, to unveil on October 1, but that date was later postponed to November. According to Tavenner, the date will now be further pushed to the end of November.
The launch date is only one of the delays associated with SHOP. The Wall Street Journal recounted that in April, the Obama administration announced that it was delaying by one year the feature that would allow small business workers to choose from a variety of plans. Companies will now have to select one plan to cover all of their employees.
Another delay, The Washington Post stated, occurred on September 26, when Health and Human Services officials disclosed that small business owners would not be able to enroll in new plans online during the first month after the website's release. They would instead need to fax or mail the necessary documents to the department. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney added that employers "will be able to apply for the tax credits beginning October 1st, and they will be able to enroll, if you will, for these programs beginning November 1st."
With the new launch date, however, there is concern that businesses will not have enough time to purchase insurance policies that would be effective starting January 1, 2014. The deadline to purchase plans effective at the start of next year is December 15, so employers would only have two weeks to select and enroll in plans in order to follow that timeline.
In an email statement last month, House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) expressed his frustration with all of healthcare.gov's issues: "I've never seen a law implemented with so many delays, mistakes and problems."
Bloomberg Businessweek noted that companies with more than 50 employees have been given a one-year reprieve from providing affordable health insurance to avoid a fine. The problematic launch of healthcare.gov has led many lawmakers -- even some Democrats -- to call for a similar reprieve for individuals by eliminating the penalty for next year or extending the enrollment period past March 31, 2014. The Affordable Care Act does not mandate businesses with fewer than 50 workers to purchase insurance.
Compiled by Aneesha Jhingan
"Delayed again: Critical function of health care law's small business exchange pushed back," washingtonpost.com, October 30, 2013, J.D. Harrison, http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/delayed-again-critical- function-of-health-care-laws-small-business-exchange-pushed-back/2013/10/30/c8a3f414-416e-11e3-a624- 41d661b0bb78_story.html
"Health Insurance Marketplace for Small Businesses Delayed (Again)," blogs.wsj.com, October 30, 2013, Sarah Needleman, http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2013/10/30/health-insurance-marketplace-for-small-businesses-delayed- again/
"Small Business Health-Care Shopping Delayed, Again," businessweek.com, October 30, 2013, John Tozzi, http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-10-30/small-business-health-care-shopping-delayed-again