Small businesses hoping to start taking advantage of the new health care reform provisions next week may have to put those plans on hold for a bit.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced this week that small businesses with less than 50 employees will not be able to start signing up their workers online for insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace on Oct. 1 as originally scheduled.
CNN reported both online enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace and side-by-side plan comparisons won't be available until at least Nov. 1.
Access to the Health Insurance Marketplace, also known as the health care exchanges, is a key component of the Affordable Care Act. The exchanges are designed to help individuals and employers who don't have insurance obtain coverage from competing private health care providers.
Health and Human Services Department spokeswoman Joanne Peters told CNN that the government will still operate a call center to help small businesses explore their health insurance options, and that they will be able to apply for coverage using a paper application.
"Small businesses will be able to participate in the (Small Business Health Option Program) beginning on October 1 to evaluate their coverage options," Peters told CNN. "In November, small businesses will be able to enroll in coverage options, well ahead of when coverage begins on January 1."
While enrollment is on hold for small businesses, individuals can still begin signing up for insurance via the exchanges on Tuesday as scheduled. However, Reuters reports that online Spanish-language enrollment will be delayed until at least the third week of October.