On November 27, the federal government announced that the start of the online federal health insurance exchange, or "marketplace," for small businesses will be delayed until November 2014. The delay will allow the government to continue focusing on getting the troubled HealthCare.gov website to function properly.
The start of online enrollment in the Small Business Health Options Program("SHOP") exchange had already been delayed from an October 1 target date, and last April the availability of an "employee choice" function (which will allow employers to offer multiple plan options) was pushed back one year.
A Q&A document released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services stated, "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."
Small businesses may submit paper applications until the online exchange is available. Businesses in the 14 states, plus the District of Columbia, that operate their own exchanges will be unaffected by the federal delay.