WASHINGTON D.C. – Citing the challenges in establishing a new health insurance marketplace, the Obama administration is delaying a key provision of the Affordable Care Act designed to provide employees of small businesses affordable health coverage.
The New York Times reported Monday that in most states employers will not be able to provide workers with a choice of health plans as the law intended. Instead, they will be limited to a single plan.
One of the health law’s provisions, known as “employee choice,” called for each state to operate a Small Business Health Options Program, known as a SHOP exchange.
The exchange, which was to start operating in January, is designed to allow small businesses and their employees to compare health plans and enroll employees for coverage. However, in 33 states where the federal government will be running the exchanges, the choice option will be delayed until 2015, meaning employees of small firms will only have the choice of one plan. Other states operating their own exchanges will also have the option to only offer a single plan as well.
A number of insurers, including Aetna, had asked the Obama administration to delay the “employee choice” option, citing their experience in Massachusetts, which put through health reforms that were the model for the Affordable Care Act.
Insurers say they asked for the delay because the administration did not provide final rules for the small business exchange until last month. However, a few states including California and Connecticut will begin offering the employee choice option next month.