ACA Enrollment Tools Delayed For Small Businesses, Spanish Language

By Jude Joffe-Block
September 26, 2013
David Martin Davies
Affordable Care Act buttons at a health insurance exchange meeting in San Antonio.

Beginning Oct. 1, individuals can pre-enroll for health insurance in the marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. But federal officials say some online tools for small businesses and Spanish speakers won’t be ready by then.

The delays will impact the 36 states, including Arizona and Texas, that are using the federally-run marketplaces or partnering with the federal government.

Small business owners wanting to sign up for insurance plans for their employees won’t be able to enroll online until November, rather than Oct. 1 as originally planned.

They will still be able to compare insurance options online beginning on Oct. 1.

Gary Cohen of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said more time was needed to make sure the enrollment worked properly.

“We just wanted to make sure that we got it right, and that it was going to be as helpful to small businesses as it could possibly be,” Cohen told reporters on a press call.

The federal Spanish language online sign-up form will be delayed until mid-October.

About 10 million Latinos are eligible to buy insurance in the marketplace, and about a third of them are primary Spanish speakers, according to federal officials.

Mayra Alvarez, who works on minority health issues at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, says despite the delay in the Spanish application, there will still be ways for Spanish speakers to sign up immediately.

“There is also a live web chat function that is available in both English and Spanish to answer questions while applying,” Alvarez said. “There is also a call center that is available in both English and Spanish and actually with the capacity to help in 150 additional languages.”

Alvarez also said community-based navigators and counselors will also be ready to assist people in varoius languages beginning on Oct. 1.

The date that new coverage is set to begin, Jan. 1, remains unchanged.