Small Biz Healthcare Marketplaces Delayed, Unpopular

medical kitYou know the saying that “nothing’s certain but death and taxes.” I think one more thing can be added to that short list: delays in rolling out Affordable Care Act small business health insurance exchanges.

States were supposed to have these exchanges up by November 2014, but when that seemed impossible, the administration granted a one-year reprieve, pushing the deadline off until November 2015. Recently, officials tacked on another one-year delay. Now, the drop-dead deadline is November 2016 and at least 18 states have made that their target date. Another 14 states will be going with the federal government’s exchange in 2015.

Further, in Washington, D.C., which is way ahead of the curve and already has its small biz health insurance exchange up and running, the reception by businesses has been tepid, at best.

According to the Washington Post, although some 13,000 individuals have signed up via the small business marketplace, only 600 of those actually own or work for a small business. Due to an odd provision in the law, the other 12,400 are Congressional staffers who are allowed to use the site to get health insurance.

To say that the small business health insurance exchanges are a crazy quilt of implementation strategies would be an insult to crazy quilts. And no matter what one’s personal position is on the Affordable Care Act, such disparity in its rollout and ad hoc delays makes business planning—including hiring—difficult, at best. Coming up with reasonable estimates of future costs is virtually impossible.

Here’s an issue where I’d like to know what you think. How are you handling health insurance for your employees? There are, of course, strategies ranging from not providing any health insurance to going with an insurer outside of the exchange marketplace.

Also, has the uncertainty around health insurance costs prompted you to delay or abandon plans to expand and hire additional employees? Sometimes the best way to grasp these situations is to hear stories from the trenches.

What’s yours?

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