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Small business healthcare exchange delayed, again


Small business owners will have to wait until the end of the month to purchase insurance on the government health insurance exchanges. What date the website will be available, is still unknown.

Small business owners will have to wait later in the month to purchase insurance on the government health insurance exchanges. What date the website will be available, is still unknown.

The small business health options plan (SHOP) website will be open “at the end of November” according to testimony from Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

This is the second time the website has been delayed. The SHOP website was scheduled to open alongside the public health exchanges website on October 1, but officials delayed it until November 1. If the website is open on November 30, small business owners will have only 16 days to enroll in SHOP plans that begin in January, says Rep. Sam Graves, chair of the House Small Business Committee.

Business groups have been calling for a delay in both the individual and employer mandates of the Affordable Care Act due to functionality delays in the health insurance exchange websites. “The delay of the individual mandate is appropriate and fair due to the administrative delay of the employer mandate. The delay would alleviate confusion for small-business owners, self-employed individuals and small-business employees. Delaying problematic provisions provides temporary relief for individuals and small businesses, while also validating the underlying problems inherent in the law and its implementation,” said Susan Eckerly, senior vice president of public policy for the National Federation of Independent Business in a letter to the U.S. Senate.

The SHOP exchanges are only for those employers with more than 50 fulltime employees-and it is not mandated that those employers have to purchase insurance through the exchanges. Officials say that business owners interested in purchasing exchanges through SHOP can still do so over the phone.

Government officials are still scrambling to repair the public insurance exchange website, drawing contractors from Google, Oracle, and other top technology companies. According to media reports, only six applicants were able to purchase insurance in the first day that the health exchanges opened, though the government site reported having 4.7 million unique visitors. 

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