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Despite Federal Delay, Minn. Vows To Have Small Business Options On New Health Exchange

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Workers at small businesses that buy health insurance on MNSURE — Minnesota’s new online marketplace — will have access to features that will be delayed in many other states.

These marketplaces, also called exchanges, will offer health plans for individuals and small businesses, and they are being set up in each state. The federal health care law calls for a system that allows small businesses buying employee health coverage on the marketplaces to offer workers options from a variety of health plans. The idea is to allow more choice than the employer picking one plan for all and to provide an advantage that larger workplaces often offer.

The Obama administration, which is scrambling to put together the exchanges in more than 30 states that won’t be building their own, said that capability won’t be available next year as planned.

The Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, would not only provide information about various plans for comparison, but it is also supposed to help make the transfer of money for premiums simpler for small business owners by allowing them to deposit money with the exchange, rather than having to deal with individual insurers.

But MNSURE’s executive director, April Todd-Malmlov, said the exchange Minnesota is developing will offer small business employees a range of choices on its first day of operation.

“We know that employers are very much looking forward to it. So we are definitely planning on having it available,” Todd-Malmlov said.

The law defines small businesses as firms that employ up to 100 workers.