Health Market Delay for Small Businesses – The day before Thanksgiving the United States Department of Health and Human Services announced another delay in the use of government websites to enroll in health insurance plans under the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. According to the announcement, small businesses will not be able to use the government sites to enroll in health insurance plans until November 2014. This was the second such delay for small businesses. These exchanges were originally scheduled to be available for enrollment on October 31st and had already been delayed once to a new deadline of December 1st. This new postponement affects small businesses in the 36 states where the federal government is running the health care exchanges. It does not affect businesses in those 14 states that operate their own sites.
Although small businesses can still sign up for health insurance using insurance brokers or directly with insurance companies, a spokesman, for the National Federation of Independent Business has said that this latest delay is just another sign small companies are “low on the priority list” for Obamacare. Others have said that the delay is really not that big a deal since most businesses are in the habit of using brokers to fulfill their health care responsibilities anyway. Businesses can still use the government sites to compare health plans during the period of the delay and, according to a spokesperson for the Main Street Alliance, an advocacy group for small business, this function will be improved beginning this month.
In addition to the delays described above, small business groups also complain about the difficulty in applying for the tax credits associated with small business health care costs. The Government Accountability Office says these credits are often wasted and apparently the difficulty involved in applying for them may be one of the reasons. Small businesses can currently apply for a tax credit equal to 35 percent of the health care costs for their employees. Beginning in 2104, that percentage will increase to 50.
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