The Obama administration has announced that it will be unable to meet its own deadline for creating a new insurance marketplace intended specifically for small business owners, and has chosen to delay implementation of the program.
The news has elicited both concern and uncertainty from legislators and small business advocates in Idaho, in the aftermath of the Idaho House and the Senate passing Gov. Butch Otter’s plan for Idaho to comply with the Obamacare federal health care law.
“Some of us anticipated these kinds of delays,” Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, told IdahoReporter.com in an exclusive interview. “This is a massive undertaking by the federal government to try and launch all the various insurance exchange operations, all at the same time. I was under no assumption that this would happen smoothly.”
Fulcher added: “This prolongs the uncertainty that already exists in our economy. Business owners simply don’t know what the next steps are to remain in compliance with the Obamacare law, let alone how to purchase insurance. We all have to keep on keeping on with what we are doing, but our government is making it more difficult.”
“This is a great example of why I voted ‘no’ on the Idaho insurance exchange legislation,” Sen. Steve Thayn, R-Emmett, told IdahoReporter.com. “Obamacare will continue to be a very costly problem until it is repealed. I regret that our state has chosen to participate in it.”
A component of the Obamacare law calls for the federal government to create a new insurance marketplace specifically for small businesses to utilize. The intent of the plan was to provide small business owners and their employees a broad choice of health insurance plans from which they could choose, plans that would be available for purchase through the government-run insurance exchanges in the various states. The program was to begin in the first quarter of 2014.
But, according to a report this week in the New York Times, that is not going to happen. The plan won’t be ready until first quarter of 2015, at the earliest. The administration cites “operational challenges” as the cause of the delay, and in the interim small business owners in most states will have only one approved insurance plan to purchase.
"We don't really know what this means,” Suzanne Budge, director of the Idaho Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) told IdahoReporter.com. “This news applies to federally run exchanges yet, as best as we can understand it, the Obama administration was intending to extend these insurance purchasing flexibilities to the state-based exchanges. This is one more example of the Obama administration demonstrating an inability to do what they have said they would do.”
She also wonders how the delay will play out with Idaho’s state insurance exchange. “We’ll see what our soon-to-be-created state insurance exchange board thinks about this. But it seems that every week we get another piece of news indicating that the administration cannot implement what they have laid out, all of which drives continued uncertainty for businesses.”
Budge is not alone in her frustrations. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu,D-La.), who serves on the Senate Committee On Small Business and Entrepreneurship, told the New York Times this week that the administration’s delay will “prolong and exacerbate health care costs that are crippling 29 million small businesses.”
Landrieu had opposed the federal Obamacare law in the U.S. Senate back in 2010. She switched her position when a provision was written into the bill that sent $300 million in federal tax dollars specifically to her home state of Louisiana to fortify the state’s Medicaid program, and her eventual vote in favor of the Obamacare law was seen as pivotal for the bill’s passage.