Yet another de­lay for Oba­macare

This one hits small busi­nesses

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion said Wed­nes­day it is de­lay­ing another part of the pres­i­dent’s new health care law, say­ing that the online por­tal for small busi­nesses to shop for plans through the fed­eral health ex­changes won’t be ready for another year.

While ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said small busi­nesses still have other av­enues to shop for poli­cies, Repub­li­can crit­ics said the de­lay — an­nounced as most of of­fi­cial Wash­ing­ton had shut down for Thanks­giv­ing — is the lat­est sign Pres­i­dent Obama’s sig­na­ture achieve­ment should be scrapped al­to­gether.

“The pres­i­dent bit off more than he can chew with this health care law, and small busi­nesses are now forced to bear the con­se­quences,” House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Repub­li­can, said.

The Small Busi­ness Health

Op­tions Pro­gram, or SHOP, was sup­posed to be an im­me­di­ate boon for small busi­ness, which had lit­tle clout in the insurance world and could take ad­van­tage of tax cred­its un­der the health care law to de­fray the cost of premi­ums. In­stead, it is another vic­tim of the flawed de­but of online insurance mar­kets.

Of­fi­cials are still rush­ing to try to fix prob­lems with the Health­ web­site, used by in­di­vid­u­als in 36 states that opted not to set up their own health ex­changes un­der Oba­macare. Of­fi­cials are hop­ing to have the web­site work­ing for the “vast ma­jor­ity” of users in the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket by this weekend — though they are also warn­ing users not to flood the sys­tem for fear it could, once again, get over­loaded.

In the case of SHOP, the ad­min­is­tra­tion said that online tool won’t be ready un­til Novem­ber 2014. Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices of­fi­cials said they are still al­low­ing en­roll­ment through agents, bro­kers and in­sur­ers in the fed­eral mar­ket­place.

Busi­nesses with fewer than 50 em­ploy­ees, which are not re­quired to of­fer cov­er­age un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act, can com­pare plans online start­ing Dec. 1, even if they have to rely on non-In­ter­net ap­pli­ca­tions to qual­ify for tax cred­its and gain cov­er­age for em­ploy­ees, of­fi­cials said.

“This al­lows small em­ploy­ers to sign up for cov­er­age through off-line en­roll­ment while [the Center for Medi­care & Med­i­caid Ser­vices] works on cre­at­ing a smoothly func­tion­ing online ex­pe­ri­ence in the SHOP Mar­ket­place,” an agency of­fi­cial said.

CMS spokes­woman Julie Bataille said that for small busi­nesses, work­ing with bro­kers and agents is “some­thing they’re al­ready very fa­mil­iar with do­ing.”

The Small Busi­ness Ma­jor­ity, an ad­vo­cacy group, tried to stay up­beat about the de­vel­op­ment.

“It’s dis­ap­point­ing that the online por­tion of the fed­eral small-busi­ness mar­ket­place through Health­ will be de­layed and it’s im­por­tant it get up and run­ning as soon as pos­si­ble,” founder and CEO John Arens­meyer said. “How­ever, it doesn’t change the fact that the mar­ket­place can of­fer the most com­pet­i­tive com­bi­na­tion of price and qual­ity for small busi­nesses pur­chas­ing health insurance.”

Mean­while state-run ex­changes such as the D.C. ver­sion, through which mem­bers of Congress must sign up for cov­er­age, have re­ported that their SHOPs are run­ning just fine.

Repub­li­can crit­ics of the law al­ready are com­par­ing the pre-hol­i­day an­nounce­ment to the White House’s de­ci­sion July 2 to de­lay for one year the em­ployer man­date re­quir­ing larger com­pa­nies to of­fer insurance.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced that de­ci­sion in a blog post while peo­ple pre­pared for a long hol­i­day weekend.

“Just as it did over July 4 while we cel­e­brated our in­de­pen­dence, to­day the ad­min­is­tra­tion is do­ing its best to bury the lat­est con­fir­ma­tion that this law was not ready for prime time,” said Rep. Fred Up­ton, Michi­gan Repub­li­can and chair­man of the En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has shifted mul­ti­ple dead­lines of late, no­tably al­low­ing con­sumers to sign up for cov­er­age un­til Dec. 23 — in­stead of Dec. 15 — to gain cov­er­age in time for Jan­uary.

It also pushed back the start of in­di­vid­ual en­roll­ment for 2014 from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15, or af­ter the midterm elec­tions.

Rep. Sam Graves, Missouri Repub­li­can and chair­man of the House Small Busi­ness Com­mit­tee, said that “another last-minute de­lay is just more proof that the law is un­work­able and be­yond the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“If small firms failed to pro­vide ser­vices this fre­quently, they would be fired,” he said.


POWER PLAYER: Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin has beaten back chal­lenges at home and demon­strated his in­flu­ence on events on the world stage.

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