Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Administration Delays Employer Insurance Mandate

Last week the Obama administration announced that it will delay implementation of a part of the Affordable Care Act that requires businesses with 50 or more employees to offer their workers health insurance coverage. Instead of going into effect starting in 2014, employers will now have until 2015.

According to Kaiser Health News, administration officials said that the delay was in response to employers’ concerns about the law’s reporting requirements. A statement by an IRS official said that delaying the law’s "employer responsibility" provision would give employers more time to comply, and would give the government more time to consider ways to simplify the new reporting requirements consistent with implementation the law.

As of now, 94 percent of companies with over 50 employees already offer health insurance, but the scope and costs of the plans can vary widely from company to company.

Most people are taking the announcement in stride. Families USA, a pro healthcare non-profit, said that they don’t expect the change to have a major impact on the overall expansion of health insurance coverage. Other employer groups were pleased with the decision.  The National Retail Federation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business all praised the announcement, making statements saying that the delay will allow businesses to have more time for rule clarification before being fined for non-compliance.

On the Hill, Democrats have been slow to respond. Some of the health care reform law’s strongest supporters are treading carefully before making any statements. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that “flexibility is a good thing. Both the administration and Senate Democrats have shown -- and continue to show -- a willingness to be flexible and work with all interested parties to make sure that implementation of the Affordable Care Act is as beneficial as possible to all involved. It is better to do this right than fast." Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to the President, echoed that mentality in a White House blog post.

Republicans are using the delay to point out flaws they see in the law. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that the delay was "a clear acknowledgment that the law is unworkable, and it underscores the need to repeal the law and replace it with effective, patient-centered reforms."

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, meanwhile noted that the delay takes the issue past the 2014 congressional elections.

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