Apparently Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is beginning to realize what then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi meant with her famous comment about the passage of Obamacare “we have to pass it to see what is in it”. A recent comment by Sebelius that “she did not anticipate how complicated implementing the president’s signature healthcare law would be” indicates that the administration is still discovering “what is in it”.
In that spirit of discovery the Obama administration has announced that the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), the small business health insurance exchanges promised by Obamacare, will be delayed. Originally scheduled to be available in January 2014, the SHOP will be delayed to 2015 in the 33 states where the federal government will be running the exchanges. As of right now, that will likely include Michigan.
For now it looks like this will mean that business under 50 employees will only be able to choose one plan from the SHOP exchange for their employees in 2014. Then, in theory, by 2015 small business would be able to choose from a range of plans. Health insurance exchanges for individual purchasers are still planning to be in place by 2014 but it would be no surprise if a similar delay is announced as the year progresses.
In Michigan, the delay could result in a return to the legislative battle over whether Michigan should have a state, federal, or state-federal health care exchange under the law. At the moment it appears that the “don’t touch it with a ten foot pole” sentiment has prevailed as the deadlines to implement anything but a federal run exchange have come and gone without action by the legislature.
However, if the other shoe drops – and those federal deadlines also get delayed by a year – a state, or federal-state run exchange could be back in play at the state capital.