Everybody who was waiting for the pre-Thanksgiving Obamacare news dump can stop waiting.
The online exchange that was supposed to make it easier for small businesses to sign up for health insurance through President Obama's health care law has been delayed for a year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, announced on an afternoon conference call.
According to CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille, the small business website now won't be available until December 2014.
HHS officials have repeatedly vowed that the feature, known as the SHOP exchange, would be available this November for the federal exchange, which serves residents of 36 states.
"The SHOP Marketplace for Federally-facilitated Marketplace states opens Oct. 1, 2013, when small employers can start the application process and get an overview of available plans and premiums in their area," an HHS press release from Sept. 26 read. "All functions for SHOP will be available in November and if employers and employees enroll by Dec. 15, 2013, coverage will begin Jan. 1, 2014."
On Oct. 29, when CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on Obamacare's rollout problems, she insisted, "Yes, we will institute the SHOP component at the end of November."
Small businesses will still be able to apply for insurance by paper application and through brokers until the website's planned launch next year. And the delay does not apply to states that are running their own websites, only to the states that are relying on the federal government.
The news was first reported by Politico, which quotes a notice to small businesses earlier Wednesday in which HHS states, “We've concluded that we can best serve small employers by continuing this offline process while we concentrate on both creating a smoothly functioning online experience in the SHOP Marketplace, and adding key new features, including an employee choice option and premium aggregation services, by November 2014.”