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HealthCare.gov to leave small businesses in lurch for a year

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The struggling Healthcare.gov website faced a major setback as small businesses will not be able to enroll for at least a year.

On Wednesday, November 27, the Obama administration made the announcement that small businesses will not be able to enroll online in the new health insurance exchanges till November 2014. The Department of Health and Human Services revealed that it would delay the launch of the online SHOP Marketplace.

Earlier in April this year, the government announced that small businesses would be able to enroll in the SHOP, but it delayed until 2015 the employee's ability to opt for more than one plan. Instead, the businesses were able to opt for one plan for all its employees, which was the scenario for most small businesses before the launch of SHOP.

This is the second delay for the enrollment of small business as initially it was slated to begin this month. However, per Julie Bataille, who is the director of the Office of Communications for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, businesses can continue to sign-up for the Small Business Health Options Program via paper applications just like they have since October 1 this year.

Additionally, the businesses can enroll via agents or brokers or alternately through an insurer. Bataille also revealed that tax credits would be applied at the time businesses filed their taxes.

Republicans were not happy with the announcement and said that the delay is evidence of the fact that the HealthCare.gov website is still not up to the mark.

"With each passing day, it's clear how much worse ObamaCare is than a website full of glitches," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in a statement.

However, Bataille disagreed and revealed that the delay is not a reflection of the functioning of HealthCare.gov.

"The website is working already," she said. "Consumers every day are shopping and enrolling in coverage."

Per officials, by the coming weekend, the website is anticipated to handle 800,000 people per day "smoothly."

Kevin Kuhlman, who is the manager of legislative affairs for National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), said the announcement was reflective of the fact that the Obama administration was not bothered about small business.

"This new delay announcement is a disappointment but not a surprise. Small businesses continue to be low on the priority list during the Obamacare implementation process," said Kuhlman in a statement. "It probably matters little to people in Washington that the failure to get the small business exchanges online adds yet another onerous paperwork requirement for job creators. The continued delays add to uncertainty and contribute to the decision of many owners to take early renewals of their small-group plans."

States which are offering SHOP coverage via state-based exchanges remain unaffected by the announcement.

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