KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Administration Again Delays Insurance Mandate For Some Smaller Employers

The Washington Post: White House Delays Health Insurance Mandate For Medium-Sized Employers Until 2016
The Obama administration announced Monday it would give medium-sized employers an extra year, until 2016, before they must offer health insurance to their full-time workers. Firms with at least 100 employees will have to start offering this coverage in 2015. By offering an unexpected grace period to businesses with between 50 and 99 employees, administration officials are hoping to defuse another potential controversy involving the 2010 health-care law, which has become central to Republicans' campaign to make political gains in this year’s midterm election (Eilperin and Goldstein, 2/10).

Politico: Obama Administration Delays Part Of Employer Mandate Again
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 (Norman, 2/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Delays Health-Insurance Mandate For Some Firms
That so-called employer mandate was seen as a cornerstone provision in the law's goal of expanding insurance coverage to millions of Americans this year. But last summer the administration announced a surprise one-year reprieve in enforcement of the requirement, from 2014 to 2015. Monday's announcement of further delays comes as the administration weighs how much of the law to adjust in the wake of the rollout and the looming prospect of midterm elections (Radnofsky, 2/10).

The New York Times: Health Insurance Enforcement Delayed Again For Some Employers
Under the Affordable Care Act, larger employers are generally subject to tax penalties if they fail to offer "minimum essential coverage" to full-time employees and their dependents. The administration laid out a three-tier approach. For larger employers with 100 or more employees (about 2 percent of employers): Seventy percent of employees must be offered coverage in 2015, and in later years at least 95 percent of employees must be offer coverage. Employers that do not meet these standards will be subject to tax penalties. For employers with 50 to 99 employees (about 2 percent of employers): Companies with 50 to 99 employees will have an extra year, until 2016, to provide coverage or pay tax penalties. For small businesses with fewer than 50 employees (about 96 percent of all employers): These companies will not be required to provide coverage or fill out any forms in any year (Pear, 2/10).

Associated Press: Another Delay In Health Law's Employer Requirement
Republicans decided to again make the health care law their top issue in the midterm congressional elections, hoping to take control of the Senate by unseating vulnerable Democrats who voted for the law back in 2010. The actions Monday by the administration could help those Democrats, defusing Republican charges that the law is a "job killer" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 2/10).

The Hill: ObamaCare's Employer Mandate Pushed Back For The Second Time
The Obama administration on Monday announced it is delaying the employer mandate in ObamaCare until 2016 for some businesses. This delay in the mandate — the second so far — would only apply to businesses with between 50 and 99 employees, who would have until January 2016 to decide whether to offer insurance to their employees or pay a penalty. Businesses would also be barred from cutting their workers in order to fall under the threshold (Goad, 2/10). 

CNBC: Delayed: Obamacare's Employer Mandate For Small Businesses
Officials Monday said that the delay in the Obamacare mandate will affect 50 percent of the businesses that were supposed to be complying by 2015. About 7.8 million workers are employed by the affected businesses. However, those officials also took pains to note that the so-called employer mandate to offer affordable health insurance to workers does not affect 96 percent of the employers in the U.S., because they have fewer than 50 full-time employees (Mangan, 2/10).

National Journal: White House Delays Obamacare Mandate Again
Officials said businesses will have to attest that they're not cutting employees just to qualify for the additional delay but noted that businesses are still free to cut their workforces for economic reasons. Asked where Treasury found the legal authority to phase in the employer mandate, officials said the department has "broad authority" to implement tax laws in a way that will ease the administration of those laws. "We think a phase-in approach really is a way to administer the law better," a senior Treasury official said (Baker, 2/10).

The announcement from the Treasury Department is here.

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