Small businesses will not be able to provide workers with a choice of health plans because of a delay in rolling out health exchanges.
The Obama administration blamed "operational challenges" for the delay. Insurers had complained that they did not have enough time to set up health exchange offerings.
The Affordable Care Act calls for each state to set up a Small Business Health Options Program (aka SHOP exchange) to help employers compare health insurance options.
The deadline for launching the exchanges was October 1, with coverage beginning in January 2014.
Health exchanges are supposed to provide employees of small businesses with health care options the way large employers are able to offer their employees a choice of plans.
But the Department of Health and Human Services said Monday, "We have proposed that in 2014, a SHOP may elect to have businesses choose one plan to offer employees, and in 2015 employees will be able to choose from the full range of plans in the Marketplace."
Health care exchanges for individual health insurance (not small businesses) are not affected by the delay.
Participating in the SHOP exchanges, while limited in 2014, still could be attractive to small employers. Small businesses that join the exchanges in 2014 could be eligible for tax credits that would lower coverage costs.
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