Now here’s a surprise: The web-based health insurance exchanges established by Obamacare are officially open for business –- but there’s a glitch.
Shortly before the exchanges opened, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that small businesses won’t be able to buy health insurance online through the new marketplaces until November.
It was expected the exchanges, which were designed primarily to help individuals and small businesses obtain affordable coverage, would be able to start signing up all of their prospective customers beginning Oct. 1.
For now, however, the green light to purchase coverage online has only been given to individuals. Meanwhile, employers are able to start reviewing their insurance options. They just can’t purchase coverage via the web yet — although they can still sign up by mail or fax.
One of several delays
This is not the first delay to hit the exchanges’ Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). The program, which was used as a major selling point to get small businesses on board with the healthcare reform law, was intended to help smaller employers compare health plans and offer multiple plan options to employees.
This past spring, the Obama administration dropped the requirement that state exchanges must provide multiple plan options as part of the SHOP in 2014 in the 33 state exchanges being run by the federal government. The White House also said it would be willing to delay enforcement of the multi-plan SHOP rule for state-run exchanges.
As a result, several of the exchanges will only offer one plan option to small employers.
Spanish-speaking Americans to wait as well
In addition to the announcement that online sign-ups will be unavailable to small employers, the HHS said the Spanish-language version of Healthcare.gov, the federal portal for exchange enrollment, will not be able to process applications right away.
Instead, Spanish-speaking individuals who wish to sign up now are being directed to register over the phone.
State-level delays expected, too
Adding insult to injury for Obamacare is the fact that complications are expected at the state level as well.
Example: Oregon recently announced its exchange won’t be available to the public right away. Instead, it’ll only be open to brokers and “navigators” helping people shop for coverage.
And Washington DC said its exchange won’t be able to calculate the cost of insurance plans until sometime in November.
List of pushbacks is getting long
These recent delays have added to what’s become a long list of pushbacks for President Obama’s signature law.
For those keeping score at home, here’s what else has been delayed in recent months:
- Health coverage reporting requiring plan sponsors and insurers to report to the IRS who is covered under their health plans and provide plan participants with statements detailing the info reported to the IRS
- Full-time employee and plan value reporting, requiring large employers to notify the IRS who their full-time employees are and whether they’re offered affordable, minimum-value coverage and, again, provide similar statements to participants
- Enforcement of the employer mandate requiring large employers to provide their employees with affordable, minimum-value coverage or pay a penalty
- The $6,350 individual coverage and $12,700 family coverage caps on out-of-pocket health insurance expenses for health plans that use plans from multiple providers to supply benefits, and
- The penalty for failing to provide a health exchange notice to employees, which was due Oct. 1.
This post originally ran on our sister website HRBenefitsAlert.com.