Politicians in Washington only have a few more days left to argue over funding for Obamacare before a federal government shutdown occurs. While members of the Senate are scrambling to sort out a deal that will please both Republicans and Democrats, there are other problems facing the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday that small business and Spanish-language health insurance enrolment services will not begin on October 1 as originally planned. While open enrolment for Obamacare will be available for most people starting next Monday, small business health exchanges will not be available online until November 1. Employers with 50 or fewer employees will still be able to sign up their staff for private insurance via paper applications, however. A PDF version of the enrolment plan will be posted on Tuesday.
Other features of the small-business health marketplaces have been delayed as well, including one that would have allowed employees to pick their own health plan. This feature won't be available until 2015. Gary Cohen, the deputy administrator and director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight has explained that the delays are meant to improve consumers' experiences in shopping for health care coverage in the small-business marketplace.
We just wanted to make sure that we got it right and that it was going to be as helpful to small businesses as it possibly could be. Unlike the individual market, where there's a defined open enrolment period, in the small-business market you can enrol any time during the year. We felt that taking a little bit of additional time to make sure everything is functioning as best as it possibly could be was the right way to go."
Another major delay to Obamacare involves the launch of the Spanish-language version of HealthCare.gov. There will be Spanish speakers available by phone starting on October 1 for those who wish to enrol right away rather than wait for the Spanish-language online enrolment to launch later in October. Hispanics are an important part of the Obama constituency as they make up about one-third of the 47 million uninsured in the United States.
Obama officials have not offered any in-depth explanations for the delays aside from blaming technical glitches, but that hasn't stopped Republicans from using the delays as a reason to stop the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act. Those Republicans most staunchly opposed to Obamacare are pointing to the delays as a prime example of the inadequacies of the health care law.