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By Drew Armstrong
WASHINGTON - Small-business employees will have to wait a year before they can choose their own medical plans after the Obama administration delayed a part of the 2010 U.S. health care reform law intended to provide them with coverage options.
Starting in 2014, workers at companies with fewer than 100 employees were supposed to have been able to choose from a variety of health plans through new small-business insurance marketplaces. They will instead wait until at least 2015, according to regulations released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In the meantime, small-business employees will face a situation similar to what most companies offer, with their employers choosing the coverage. Health insurers will still offer the plans, though they will be competing for business from companies, not individuals.
The delay is “a major letdown for small-business owners and their employees looking forward to robust, competitive exchanges in 2014,” said John Arensmeyer, CEO of the Small Business Majority, an advocacy group that backed the health care law, in a statement.
Implementation of employee choice in the program won’t be possible next year because of “operational challenges,” the federal government said in the regulation posted March 11.