KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Administration To Delay Requirement For Mid-Sized Employers To Provide Health Insurance To Workers

Officials announced Monday that the government will not enforce the mandate for businesses with 50 to 99 workers until 2016. In addition, larger employers will also be allowed to cover just 70 percent of workers in 2015, instead of the 90 percent originally required. 

The New York Times: Further Delays for Employers In Health Law
The Obama administration announced on Monday that it would postpone enforcement of a federal requirement for medium-size employers to provide health insurance to employees and allow larger employers more flexibility in how they provide coverage (Pear, 2/10).

The Washington Post: White House Delays Health Insurance Mandate For Medium-Sized Employers Until 2016
For the second time in a year, the Obama administration is giving certain employers extra time before they must offer health insurance to almost all their full-time workers. Under new rules announced Monday by Treasury Department officials, employers with 50 to 99 workers will be given until 2016 — two years longer than originally envisioned under the Affordable Care Act — before they risk a federal penalty for not complying. Companies with 100 workers or more are getting a different kind of one-year grace period. Instead of being required in 2015 to offer coverage to 95 percent of full-time workers, these bigger employers can avoid a fine by offering insurance to 70 percent of them next year (Eilperin and Goldstein, 2/10).

Politico: Obamacare Delay Sparks New Mandate Fight
Once again, it's employers who are getting a break from their Obamacare mandate – and that's sure to increase the pressure on the Obama administration to delay the mandate for individuals, too. Regulations announced by the Obama administration Monday give two levels of delay to employers who would have had to cover their workers next year. Some businesses will get an extra year – until 2016. And the bigger businesses that do have to worry about the mandate will have it phased in over two years (Norman and Nather, 2/10).

Los Angeles Times: U.S. To Further Delay Obamacare Employer Mandate
Now, under Monday's action, the employer mandate will be phased in and won't fully take effect until 2016. The additional delay is likely to have little effect on employees because the vast majority of large employers already offer health benefits. The phase-in plan drew praise from several leading business groups that have worried about complying with the complicated documentation required by the law (Levey, 2/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Law Mandate Put Off Again
 The move came after employers pressured the Obama administration to peel back the law's insurance requirements. Some firms had trimmed workers' hours to below 30 hours a week to avoid paying a penalty if they didn't offer insurance. A senior administration official said the shift was a response to businesses' concerns, though the official said no one reason was behind the change (Radnofsky and Francis, 2/10).

NPR: Health Law's Employer Mandate Hits Another Speed Bump
Republicans were quick to blast the Administration for selective implementation of the law. "Once again, the President is rewriting law on a whim," said House Speaker John Boehner a written statement. Sean Spicer, communications director for the Republican National Committee, was more direct. "I think there is a huge bit of irony," he told NPR, "that the administration and Democrats in Congress accused Republicans of trying to undo a law that they have unilaterally continued to undo or delay, week after week, as they have recognized how unpopular it is throughout the country." But not everyone sees the move as purely political. Neil Trautwein, of the National Retail Federation, says his group is grateful for the new flexibility the rules provide
(Rovner, 2/10).

The Washington Post: Obama Administration Pushes Back Deadline For Some Businesses To Provide Health Care
In the final regulations published Monday, Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department officials established three separate timetables for business owners, no longer spliting employers into only "large" or "small." Here’s what employers need to know (Harrison, 2/10).

The Associated Press: Employers Scrutinize Latest Health Care Concession
It may take weeks to render a verdict on the Obama administration’s latest health care concession to employers. But that could make a difference for Democrats battling to keep control of the Senate in the fall congressional elections (Alonso-Zaldivar, 2/11).

ABC News: Small Businesses Get One-Year Reprieve From Obamacare 'Employer Mandate'
The Obama administration has once again delayed a major provision of the president's signature health care law. Small businesses will get a one-year break from Obamacare's controversial "employer mandate," the requirement that businesses must provide health care coverage if they employ more than 50 workers at more than 30 hours per week, the U.S. Treasury announced today. "We think the phase-in approach really is a way to administer the law better and enhance overall compliance with the law," an administration official told reporters on a conference call (Good, 2/10).

Fox News: Republicans Renew ObamaCare Battle After Latest Mandate Delay
Republicans renewed their calls to delay or repeal ObamaCare Monday after the Obama administration announced another delay in the requirement for 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 (2/11).

Roll Call: One Obamacare Mandate Delay Announced As GOP Senators Question Another
Smaller employers will have another year to comply with the requirement to provide health care to employees under Obamacare's new requirements, even as Republican senators question how the administration will enforce the individual mandate at all. The employer mandate had already been delayed for one year, but the Treasury Department announced Monday afternoon that the final rule for implementation provides a further phase-in for smaller employers (Lesniewski, 2/10).

Meanwhile, regarding another health law mandate --

CNN: Hobby Lobby Asks Supreme Court For Exemption To Obamacare Mandate
Hobby Lobby asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday for an exemption to the requirement under the Affordable Care Act that certain for-profit corporations provide contraception coverage to their workers. Ahead of oral arguments next month, the craft store giant is seeking exclusion on religious grounds from the health care law's requirements, maintaining that some contraceptive products, like the morning-after pill, equate to abortion. Oral arguments for the case, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, begin March 25. The issue is whether secular, private corporations can claim religious exemption from federal laws (Davidsen, 2/10).

And here's how the law's big picture is playing in social media -- 

Politico: The Web’s Cacophony Of Anti-ACA Sentiment
The ire at #brokenpromises is beating the push to #getcovered. Anger is contagious on social media, and it has been easier to use Twitter and Facebook to stoke opposition to Obamacare than to implore people to sign up. Social media experts say supporters of the president's health law just haven't been as effective as the seething anti-Obamacare forces in getting out sharp, clear messages (Cunningham, 2/11).

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