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Online enrollment for health exchanges delayed for small businesses

The Obama administration will delay online Obamacare enrollment for small businesses in federally operated healthcare exchanges until Nov. 1, one month later than planned, an administration official said on Thursday.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said 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.

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 Oct. 1. Coverage is scheduled to begin on Jan. 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.