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Delay for buying small business health coverage

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Small businesses owners seeking to go online to buy health insurance for employees through the government’s Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP) will have to wait until November, the Obama administration has announced.

Technical glitches led the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to hold off on a planned Oct. 1 rollout of Web-based enrollment systems for small businesses.

Instead, employers will be able enroll by phone, fax or mail, using a pdf form they can download from HHS’ insurance marketplace portal.

According to an HHS statement, the “feature of shopping for and comparing plans online will be available starting November 1.” The SHOP system, mandated by the Affordable Care Act, is supposed to be a centerpiece of the administration’s health care reform effort. SHOP is designed so employers with 50 or fewer full-time employees can go online to compare health insurance prices and  coverage options. Ease of enrollment is central to its success.

But HHS has run into technological stumbling blocks in states where the federal government will run state-based insurance exchanges. The HealthCare.gov site has had problems calculating the exact premium cost of individual policies taking effect Jan. 1.

Small business owners can get more information about insurance options by calling a dedicated SHOP small employer call center at (800) 706-7893. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern time.

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