Health law business insurance site delayed 1 year - The Buffalo News
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Health law business insurance site delayed 1 year

As President Obama’s administration delays yet another aspect of the federal health insurance exchange due to computer glitches – this time for small businesses – it’s full speed ahead for individuals and small businesses seeking to sign up for coverage in New York State.

The state Health Department confirmed that New York’s online insurance market, known as New York State of Health, will not be affected by the federal government’s latest decision, announced Wednesday.

The Obama administration said it would put off implementation of an online health insurance marketplace for small businesses until November 2014 to make sure the website gets fixed first.

In a conference call with reporters, administration officials said employers who want to buy marketplace plans for their workers now will need to go through an agent, broker or insurance company to buy coverage this year, instead of using a government website. The administration says the plan will still allow small businesses to buy coverage but avoid slowing technical repairs to the hobbled federal online site.

For companies in New York State, however, it’s been business as usual since Oct. 1 for the Affordable Care Act, a spokesman for the state Health Department said Wednesday. And local insurers are acting accordingly.

“It’s our understanding that this delay does not impact New York State,” said Nora McGuire, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Independent Health Association. “From everything we can tell, the NY State of Health online marketplace has been running very smoothly and has not had the technical challenges that have been experienced with the federal exchange.”

So far, she said, small groups and individuals have not had problems entering the state’s online portal, with over 700 individual members already enrolled with Independent Health through the New York exchange.

Additionally, she said, most of the insurer’s employer clients have said they plan to continue buying health insurance directly through the company, with the majority already renewing. Only two employers have indicated they are considering the exchange, and each has fewer than five employees.

BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York is not participating in the small business exchange, also called SHOP, for the first year because the insurer wanted the state to work out any kinks first, said Julie Snyder, spokeswoman for HealthNow New York, the Buffalo-based parent of the insurer. Like Independent Health, officials also don’t expect big movement by many clients anyway.

“We really hit the pause button. There were a lot of uncertainties and we felt that a lot of our members, especially small businesses, were going to stick with broker plans rather than dump employees on the SHOP program the first year,” she said.

Meanwhile, nationally, the small business marketplace was supposed to provide employers a new way to shop for coverage, and the delay was met with frustration.

Small businesses buying coverage will still be eligible for tax credits to bring down the cost, according an administration memo.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. email:

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