KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Administration To Small Businesses: Online Health Insurance Exchange Delayed

News outlets covered the pre-Thanksgiving announcement of the delay.

The Associated Press: Health Law Business Insurance Site Delayed 1 Year
The Obama administration is delaying yet another aspect of the health care law, putting off until next November the launch of an online portal to the health insurance marketplace for small businesses. 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. In a conference call with reporters, administration officials said employers who want to buy marketplace plans for their workers now will need to go through an agent, broker or insurance company this year, instead of using the government website (Johnson, 11/27).

NPR: Small-Business Access To Online Health Exchanges Delayed Again
Employers with 50 or fewer workers were supposed to be able to participate in something called the SHOP marketplace, for Small Business Health Options. The marketplace offers plans that meet the health law's standards and would let some businesses qualify for tax credits. But the online part of the SHOP exchange has not yet been available, at least in the 36 states where the federal government is running the program. ... It's the second major delay for the SHOP program. In April, the administration delayed the ability of workers in small businesses to choose from among more than one plan (Rovner, 11/27).

NBC News: Feds Delay Small Biz Access To HealthCare.gov
 “We anticipate that small employers throughout the country will have online access to an online SHOP Marketplace by November 2014,” the Health and Human Services Department says in its blog. CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille said her agency had to focus on the most important customers of the exchange – individuals who don’t have health insurance. “It was important for us to prioritize the functionality that would enable consumers to shop and enroll online in coverage,” Bataille told reporters in a conference call. In other words, they had to focus on making the website work (Fox, 11/27). 

The New York Times: Online Health Law Sign-Up Is Delayed for Small Business
The administration said that small businesses and their employees seeking coverage in the federal exchange could still apply for insurance and enroll through an agent or broker, as many do now. ... “The agent, broker or insurer will help the employer fill out a paper application for SHOP eligibility and send it in to the SHOP marketplace,” the administration said. The insurer can also tell employers what premiums they would have to pay and can enroll employees. Some small businesses may qualify for tax credits worth up to 50 percent of their premium costs (Pear, 11/27).

Reuters: U.S. Delays Online Health Insurance Enrollment For Small Businesses
Republicans, who want to repeal or fundamentally alter the law, pounced on the fact that the announcement came on the eve of the Thanksgiving Day holiday when many Americans are distracted by travel and family activities. Last summer, the administration delayed the law's coverage mandate for larger businesses just before the July 4 Independence Day holiday. (Morgan, 11/27)



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