As part of a big holiday news dump the Obama administration announced that the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchanges will be completely delayed for a year. Small business will be able to buy exchange qualified coverage offline to try to qualify for the available tax credits, but the online web portal will not be working until November 2014 for coverage that starts in 2015.

Small business will be able to use “direct enrollment” by going directly to insurers or agents but will not be able to use an online exchange to compare plans. This is a major setback given that being able to compare plans online to shop for the best deal was supposedly the main point of this provision.

This is the second big delay for the SHOP exchanges. Earlier this year the administration announced they were not going to have the tool which would let individual employees shop online ready in time. Now they are announcing the website won’t be ready in any form.

In retrospect this first delay was a big warning sign. If someone is having trouble getting one form of insurance exchange working, it is  probably a sign they are having real trouble getting any insurance exchange working.