The mid-term congressional election is less than two months away and some observers wonder whether the event will be all about nothing.
Politico reported the Obama administration delayed part of the Obamacare employer mandate in 2015 and beyond, the latest move to counter a torrent of criticism from the business community about the health law’s impact on employers.
Treasury Department said businesses with fewer than 100 workers would not be required to provide health care to its workers in 2015 or face a fine.
It also gave big businesses with more than 100 workers more time to ramp up coverage.
Small businesses with fewer than 50 workers have always been exempt from the new coverage requirements but the law originally required all other businesses to start covering their workers for face penalties beginning Jan. 1, 2014. The White House last July pushed that start date to 2015, in response to concerted pressure from the business community.
The new policy Treasury announced gives the mid-size businesses — those with 50 to 99 workers - another year to adapt to the changing health care marketplace.
Larger businesses, most of which already offer health benefits, still need to start covering full time workers next year — but they don’t have to cover all of them.they have to cover 70 percent in the first year and 95 in 2016 to avoid.
The shift is meant to “ease the transition to a 30-hour week,” a senior Treasury official said.
The moves will be welcome news to many employer groups, who have been arguing that the law encourages them to cut workers hours to avoid the penalty. It could also provide some cover for congressional Democrats, who have increasingly expressed concern over the issue.
It’s just the latest in a series of major changes and delays the Obama administration has made leading up to the rocky launch of the new health insurance exchanges to accommodate both employers and consumers. The White House has said the changes are meant to respond to criticism and problems with implementation, but Republicans seized on the changed employer rules as an issue of fairness. They say exempting employers from penalties but keeping them on individuals is unfair.
The administration claims that it has authority to make the new changes, even changes that conflict with language in the law itself.
“In the tax code, the secretary has very broad authority to implement tax law in a way that benefits the tax administration and we think phase-in approach really is a way to administer the law better,” an official said. “The basic idea here is that you want to get this right in the long term.”