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Health Law Online Sign-up Delayed For Small Firms

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Days before the debut of new online insurance markets, a couple of last-minute technical glitches with President Barack Obama's health care law are making supporters anxious and giving opponents a new line of attack.

The administration said Thursday that small business owners who want to use insurance markets designed especially for them will have to wait until sometime in November before they can finish their sign-ups. They still can start shopping right away on Oct. 1. And even with the delay, they can get coverage for their employees by Jan. 1, when the law takes full effect.

In a potentially more significant delay affecting the law's larger insurance market for individuals, the administration quietly told Hispanic groups on Wednesday that the Spanish-language version of the healthcare.gov website will not be ready to handle online enrollments for a few weeks. An estimated 10 million Latinos are eligible for coverage, and 4 million of them speak Spanish primarily.

"It's been at least two years since we've known that Latinos are a primary target for enrollment through the Affordable Care Act, so we would have hoped that the administration would have the rollout ready on Day 1," said Jennifer Ng'andu, health care policy director for the National Council of La Raza. That said, she added that her group won't object if it takes a few more weeks to get things right.

Meanwhile, a politically powerful small business lobby that unsuccessfully sued to overturn "Obamacare" said the enrollment delay for employers strengthens the case for hitting pause on the entire law, one of the strategies now being pursued by congressional Republicans.

"Every step in the implementation process has seen delays and setbacks," Kevin Kuhlman, a top official of the National Federation of Independent Business, said in a statement. "This is starting to seem like a parody; unfortunately, it is extremely serious."

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