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Small companies' online enrollment again delayed

| Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, 8:12 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said on Wednesday that it will again delay online enrollment for small businesses buying insurance through Obamacare.

The Small Business Health Options Program, known as the SHOP exchange, will start online enrollment in November 2014, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Until then, companies will have the option to buy insurance through a broker or agent, who will help them fill out a paper application.

Online enrollment had been delayed once, from October to November.

Online enrollment for the law, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, was supposed to provide small businesses with a more efficient way to buy insurance coverage for their workers.

Small businesses have been able to apply for exchange coverage by paper application since Oct. 1.

Administration officials said that the decision was made so it can prioritize fixes to the individual health exchange, which the White House has promised will “work smoothly for the vast majority of users” by Dec. 1.

Republicans criticized the announcement, made the day before Thanksgiving, as much of Washington had left for the holiday. In July, just before the Independence Day holiday, the administration delayed the employer mandate for a year.

“Once again, President Obama has unilaterally delayed another major portion of Obamacare, and once again, he has tried to bury bad news around a holiday hoping nobody will notice,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. “These are hardly the actions of a transparent administration.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called again on Obama to repeal — or at least delay — the entire law.

“The president bit off more than he can chew with this health care law, and small businesses are now forced to bear the consequences,” Boehner said. “It's another broken promise and more proof this administration's assurances have no credibility. This law has been an absolute disaster, leaving us to ask what's next. ”

The delay affects businesses in the 36 states where the federal government is running the health insurance exchange.

Obamacare's star-crossed rollout has provoked much criticism of the president. In recent weeks, even members of his own party have begun to distance themselves from the plan, fearing re-election repercussions next year.

At one point, Obama apologized to the public for the health care law's faulty start.

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