Businesses with fewer than 50 employees are still eligible to buy insurance through the exchanges, just not online.
Welcome to the Thanksgiving Wednesday news dump, Obamacare edition. The administration was set to announce a one-year delay of the online health insurance exchanges for small businesses on Wednesday, meaning employers with staffs of 50 or under need to work with an insurance broker to buy employee coverage.
As The Washington Post explains, this means that small businesses are still eligible to buy insurance through the exchanges, just not online, as they have been since October 1. Thanks to a previous delay, the Small Business Health Options Program (or SHOP), didn't go live with the individual exchange sites on October 1. It was originally delayed for a month.
Since then, the problems with individual sign-ups on the HealthCare.gov site have dominated talk of the federal exchange roll-out. Small businesses have been able to apply for coverage through paper applications since the exchanges opened last month. Here's the note from the Department of Health and Human Services (via Politico):
We’ve concluded that we can best serve small employers by continuing this offline process while we concentrate on both creating a smoothly functioning online experience in the SHOP Marketplace and adding key new features, including an employee choice option and premium aggregation services, by November 2014."
The notice references another delayed portion of the small business marketplace: a "consumer choice" feature that will allow employees of small businesses to pick their own plans. That feature was delayed until the 2015 open enrollment period. In July, the White House delayed the "employer mandate" provision of the health care reform law, giving medium and large businesses an extra year to provide affordable health insurance to their employees.