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Obama Administration Announces More Healthcare Law Delays

Date: May 15, 2014

Non-compliant insurance policies may be valid through October 2016.

In the latest Affordable Care Act snag, the Obama administration has once again made changes to the law’s implementation, causing even more confusion to small business owners in an already rocky start to its rollout.

First, some background: Last fall, millions of Americans received notices that their health insurance plans would be canceled in January 2014 because they failed to provide all the benefits required under the law. Some customers said Pres. Barack Obama was reneging on his infamous promise that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” In response to the backlash, the administration announced that individuals and small businesses may be able to keep their non-compliant plans through October 2015, if states and individual health insurance companies allow the plans to continue.

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But in early March, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that individuals and small businesses may now be allowed to keep their non-compliant insurance policies through at least October 2016—a full year longer than the law previously allowed. The ultimate decision whether to allow the new extension now sits with the state policymakers and health insurance carriers. The latest tweak has small businesses struggling to keep up with the changes as the administration tries to prolong the impact of the massive law. Meanwhile, many are anxious about the higher premiums that will come with new plans once their existing ones expire.

Jeff Emerson, president of American Gear & Engineering in Westland, Mich., expects his premiums to increase by tens of thousands of dollars a year, while his employees will be saddled with higher costs of care. “As a small business owner, every time I turn around, all [the government is] doing is taking money out of my pocket,” he says.

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Maryland SHOP Exchange Suffers Setback

Maryland’s small business health insurance exchange sustained another blow in February when state officials fired Noridian Healthcare Solutions, the company that had a $193 million contract to build the exchange’s website.

Now small businesses in the state are left wondering when they’ll be able to tap into the Small Business Health Options Program, the state marketplace designed to offer them tailored health insurance solutions under the Affordable Care Act.

The program was supposed to launch in October 2013, but the website has suffered a string of technical problems, and its launch has since been delayed three times.

In April, the board overseeing the project voted unanimously to scrap the website and adopt software that Connecticut is using successfully for its exchange. Maryland will negotiate a $40 million to $50 million contract with the software maker, Deloitte Consulting, to develop the new site. State officials hope the new system will be working by November.

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