New delays hit Obamacare rollout before October 1 launch
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government on Thursday announced new delays in rolling out President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform, saying small business and Spanish-language health insurance enrollment services would not begin on October 1 as planned.
The postponements amount to a few weeks out of a months-long enrollment period aimed at signing up millions of uninsured Americans for health benefits. But they add to expectations of a slow start to the landmark social program which remains under attack by Republican leaders and faces formidable technical hurdles for states and the federal government.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said employers with 50 or fewer workers will not be able to sign their staff up for private insurance in federally operated exchanges until a month later, November 1, because of technical problems.
The White House also said online Spanish-language enrollment for Hispanics, an important Obama constituency who make up about one-third of the 47 million uninsured in the country, will also not be available until sometime between October 21 and October 28. Spanish speakers will still be able to enroll through a call center or enrollment specialists known as “navigators.”
Administration officials did not explain the nature of the technical problems, but they emphasized that full online enrollment for other individuals will be available on October 1 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.