During the push for national health care, one of President Obama’s major selling points was that the legislation he supported would help small businesses struggling to provide health care to their employees.

“If you strike out on your own and start a small business, you’ll be able to get coverage,” Obama said during his Sept. 2009 health care pitch before a joint session of Congress. “We’ll do this by creating a new insurance exchange — a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance at competitive prices.”

But today, the New York Times reports:

WASHINGTON — Unable to meet tight deadlines in the new health care law, the Obama administration is delaying parts of a program intended to provide affordable health insurance to small businesses and their employees — a major selling point for the health care legislation.

The law calls for a new insurance marketplace specifically for small businesses, starting next year. But in most states, employers will not be able to get what Congress intended: the option to provide workers with a choice of health plans. They will instead be limited to a single plan.

This choice option, already available to many big businesses, was supposed to become available to small employers in January. But administration officials said they would delay it to 2015 in the 33 states where the federal government will be running insurance markets known as exchanges. And they will delay the requirement for other states as well.

The big question is whether this is a harbinger of more to come. In theory, there are supposed to be operational health insurance exchanges by Oct. 1, which will begin actually providing benefits on Jan. 1. Now that the federal government will have to run all or part of the exchanges in 33 states, it remains a big question whether health officials are going to be able to meet their deadlines. Something tells me we’ll be reading more stories like this in the coming months.