Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

A big sign that the federal implementation of the Affordable Care Act is not going smoothly is the Obama administration delaying two big components of the law for at least a year.

Last week Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced that the Obama administration will delay the Federal Basic Health Plan Option (FBHPO) until 2015. Cantwell is responsible for putting the provision into the law. It will allow states to create a program to cover people from 138% to 200% FPL instead of putting them on the new private insurance exchanges.

The administration has also delayed implementing the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP exchanges) for at least a year. From the New York Times:

Unable to meet tight deadlines in the new health care law, the Obama administration is delaying parts of a program intended to provide affordable health insurance to small businesses and their employees — a major selling point for the health care legislation.

The law calls for a new insurance marketplace specifically for small businesses, starting next year. But in most states, employers will not be able to get what Congress intended: the option to provide workers with a choice of health plans. They will instead be limited to a single plan.

Both of these programs were supposed to start in 2014 along with the other coverage expansion provisions. Despite having an incredibly long time to implement the law the administration has failed to have it fully ready on time.

Delaying the FBHPO is especially damaging to the program. It means states that want to use it will first need to get this group of people using one system then try to move them all onto a new system only a year later. It may make more sense for states to simply wait until 2017 when they can apply for a full waiver. By dragging their feet the administration has probably effectively killed or significantly crippled one of the more progressive parts of the law.

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