Oh, good: Maryland delaying their small-business exchange until April

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley was a big fan of ObamaCare from the very beginning, and made it clear that his state was going to be enthusiastically working full-bore to create what they hoped would be a paragon of an ObamaCare state insurance marketplace to better aid in the implementation of the federal law.

…Which made it pretty awkward as it became clear over the last month that, much like its federal counterpart, Maryland’s exchange was full of prohibitive glitches and errors, via HuffPo:

Technical problems with the Maryland Health Connection are cutting into that head start: As of last Friday, about 4,500 Marylanders had signed up.

At that pace, the state is going to have to adjust its expectations of enrolling up to 180,000 people during the first year of Obamacare, said Kathleen Westcoat, the CEO of HealthCare Access Maryland, a Baltimore-based organization under contract to help residents sign up.

“I don’t see how the numbers are going to work with losing essentially a month to six weeks,” she said.

Worse still, Maryland had been hoping/planning to open their small-business exchange in January, but that deadline definitely isn’t going to fly anymore, via the WSJ:

Maryland officials decided Friday to delay the rollout of the small-business insurance exchange program until April so it can continue fixing  problems with marylandhealthconnection.gov, its new online marketplace. …

“We are not satisfied with the way things are going,” said Rebecca Pearce executive director of Maryland’s health benefit exchange. Ms. Pearce said many people can get through the website but that it isn’t working for everyone. About 4,500 people have enrolled in private insurance or Medicaid through the website as of end of October and more than 50,000 accounts have been created, state officials said Friday. The figures do not include paper applications.

Funnily enough, the federal government (as you might very readily imagine) is also having major problems getting their small-business exchange off the ground, leaving small business owners across the country in an economically perilous state of uncertainty — on top of the uncertainty many of them that do offer their employees health insurance are going to be faced before the end of next year. Scott Gottlieb explained how the “if you like your plan, you can keep it” misnomer is affecting them this week at Forbes:

Starting in October 2014, many employees of small businesses will start getting the same notices that are now being mailed to individuals, informing that their existing health plans are also being cancelled. …

Find another policy that’s compliant with Obamacare, but also more costly. Or put their employees into the Obamacare exchange. …

While a smaller percentage of business plans may get cancelled (relative to the fraction of individual market plans that are now being terminated) the small group market is nonetheless much bigger than the individual market. Even if Obamacare materially affects a smaller slice of the business plans, it will still encumber far more people than the 3.5 million individuals now losing coverage. …

In December, Aetna Chief Executive Mark Bertolini said he expects that premiums for individuals or small groups seeking coverage on health insurance exchanges will rise by 20% to 50% in 2014.