Administration decides to delay on ObamaCare's promise of small-business insurance options

The Obama administration has been insisting [through gritted teeth] that the health care overhaul’s implementation is indeed complex but going just swimmingly, thank you very much, but the fact remains that the federal government is now at least partially responsible for creating and running 33 states’ health insurance exchanges. The exchanges are supposed to be ready for perusal by October and going strong by the time key provisions of the law start kicking in come January — a monumental task in and of itself, and combined with the many complexities of the law’s rollout, it looks like the bureaucracy’s veneer of calm control could be starting to crack under the strain.

The NYT reports that the administration is encountering some, ahem, difficulties meeting their deadlines, and has decided to delay on a program that’s supposed to help provide affordable insurance for small businesses and their employees — one of the entire law’s major selling points.

The law calls for a new insurance marketplace specifically for small businesses, starting next year. But in most states, employers will not be able to get what Congress intended: the option to provide workers with a choice of health plans. They will instead be limited to a single plan.

This choice option, already available to many big businesses, was supposed to become available to small employers in January. But administration officials said they would delay it to 2015 in the 33 states where the federal government will be running insurance markets known as exchanges. And they will delay the requirement for other states as well. …

The administration cited “operational challenges” as a reason for the delay. As a result, it said, most small employers buying insurance through an exchange will offer just a single health plan to their workers next year. …

D. Michael Roach, who owns a women’s clothing store in Portland, Ore., said the delay was “a real mistake.”

“It will limit the attractiveness of exchanges to small business,” Mr. Roach said. “We would like to see different insurance carriers available to each of our 12 employees, who range in age from 21 to 62. You would have more competition, more downward pressure on rates, and employees would be more likely to get exactly what they wanted.”

Hmm. This was one of the reassuring promises the president and the Democrats made when they were touting the law’s benefits, and you’d think they’d want to get mitigating provisions like this one up and running as soon as possible, i.e., before the 2014 midterms, to give the Republicans as little fodder as possible for their continuing criticisms — and who knows how much else will go wrong between now and then. I’d wager that the more complicated and confusing this beast gets, the worse it will be for them.

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