The Obama administration will delay online Obamacare enrollment for small businesses in federally operated healthcare exchanges until Nov. 1, marking a one-month delay in the roll-out, an administration official said on Thursday.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that small businesses that want to purchase healthcare coverage for their employers would still be able to enroll beginning Oct. 1 through paper applications, in-person meetings or over the phone to a federal call center.
(Read more: Eight things you need to know about Obamacare)
The official gave no reason for the delay.
Officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is spearheading implementation of President Barack Obama's healthcare law, were not immediately available for comment.
Word of the delay in so-called SHOP exchange online enrollment comes five days before online healthcare marketplaces for individuals and small businesses are scheduled to begin signing up uninsured people for coverage on October 1.
Coverage is scheduled to begin on January 1.
This is also the latest in a series of delays at the federal and state level and could raise new questions about how well the marketplaces will operate in the initial weeks and months.
Business owners take issue, prepare
The law defines a "small business" as only those employers with 50 employees or less, which has been a point of contention for some business owners, including Vickers Engineering CEO Matt Tyler. His company currently has 175 employees and two plants and yet it's put in the same category as Ford Motor or Boeing, he complained.
"We're not considered a small business, so that little delay didn't affect us at all," Tyler said, adding that 2014 will be "pretty devastating" because his renewal for 2014 will come with "substantial increases" that can be attributed to Obamacare.
"It prevents us to have flexibility to manipulate our benefit package based on certain costs," Tyler said on "Street Signs."
The lack of clarity is negative for business planning, echoed R.W. "Beezer" Molten III, president and owner of Half-Moon Outfitters. The Charleston, S.C.-based retailer has eight stores and 120 employees. To avoid fees and penalties that could come from Obamacare, though, Molten said he will hire more part-time workers and fewer full-time workers going forward.