On Nov. 27, the federal government announced a one-year delay for small businesses to sign up for insurance plans using HealthCare.gov. The enrollment deadline is now November 2014 for coverage that will take effect in January 2015.
The government said the delay was necessary to allow individuals impacted by the well-known technical difficulties with the HealthCare.gov website to enroll first, before offering online enrollment to small businesses, which can still apply for insurance plans through agents or brokers.
Under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, businesses with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees would use the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) to offer insurance coverage for employees. Companies with fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees making an average of $50,000 or less may qualify for a small business health care tax credit worth up to 50% of an employer’s contribution to employee premium costs if they obtain coverage through SHOP.
Employers are still able to review plan options at HealthCare.gov, but will not be required to purchase plans until next November. At that time, employers will be able to offer their employees several different plan options and enroll online.
In the meantime, the government is encouraging small business employers to use insurance brokers or agents to enroll using the SHOP marketplace, and will make tax credits available for qualifying small businesses through agents and brokers.