The Obama administration announced another delay Monday in the requirement on businesses to provide health coverage to workers, giving some employers a reprieve next year while phasing in the mandate for others.
The administration had already delayed the implementation of the so-called employer mandate by a year, initially pushing the requirements off until 2015 — past the midterm elections. In a concession to business, though, Treasury Department officials announced Monday that the administration would not enforce the rules across the board next year.
Instead, the administration will let employers with 50 to 99 employees off the hook in 2015. They’ll be required to report on how many workers are covered but will have until 2016 before being required to cover full-time staff or pay a penalty.
Republican critics blasted the latest delay, using the announcement to renew their call for the law to be entirely suspended or repealed. Though some employers are getting a reprieve under this change, Americans would still be required to obtain health insurance, through what’s known as the individual mandate.
“Once again, the president is giving a break to corporations while individuals and families are still stuck under the mandates of his health care law. And, once again, the president is rewriting law on a whim,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. “If the administration doesn’t believe employers can manage the burden of the law, how can struggling families be expected to?”
Under the changes, employers with 100 or more workers will be required to provide health insurance to full-time staff next year. However, the new rules will only require them to cover 70 percent of workers at first; and then 95 percent the following year and beyond.
So what effect will this delay have? Not huge: It will add several billion dollars to the deficit, but have little effect on the number of Americans who actually get health insurance or on the underlying mechanics of the law. The employer mandate just wasn’t expected to have much of an effect. The delay will, however, reduce the risk of bad headlines about Obamacare over the next six months or so, helping to shield Democrats in their 2014 election battles.
How? It puts off the possible wave of firms’ cutting hours to avoid paying penalties on employees to whom they don’t want to offer health insurance, and the potential effect those penalties will have on compensation. There are also a few narrow categories, such as adjunct faculty members, that are now exempt from the mandate that hadn’t been, which won’t have a big effect on the law or insurance coverage, but can also help avoid a few bad headlines.
It’s all about politics, folks. Not helping people nor their employers. Anyone surprised?