President Barack Obama (Getty Images)
WASHINGTON -- Health care reform's employer mandate has been delayed once again, this time for businesses with 50 to 99 employees -- inspiring a chorus of criticism from some business groups and from conservative political quarters.
The Obama administration last year delayed implementation of the employer mandates until 2015. Under that provision of the Affordable Care Act, businesses with more than 50 employees must either provide insurance to their workers or pay a financial penalty.
COMPLETE COVERAGE | The Affordable Care Act
On Monday, the Treasury Department announced the employer mandate would be delayed until 2016 for businesses with under 100 employees. Employers of this size will have to file reports to the government about their insurance coverage, but they won't face any financial penalties for non-coverage until 2016.
Republicans and some business groups said the Obama administration's selective delay of the employer mandate shows that the law in its current form is unworkable. House Republican leaders said health care reform's individual mandate needs to be delayed as well.
"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," said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). "And once again, the president is rewriting law on a whim."
"If the administration doesn't believe employers can manage the burden of the law, how can struggling families be expected to? The continued manipulation by the president breeds confusion and erodes Americans' confidence in him and his health care law. We need fairness for all, with relief from Obamacare for every American."
The International Franchise Association said this delay in the employer mandate will temporarily help some franchises, but it demonstrates that health care reform "remains a significant problem for employers to implement."
"By picking winners and losers based on the size of a business, the administration has effectively placed another complicated hurdle on the backs of the small business community in coming to terms with this law," said IFA President and CEO Steve Caldeira.
Amanda Austin, director of federal policy for the National Federation of Independent Business, agrees.
"Every time small business owners hear about another delay or random rewrite of the rules under this law, they are shakign their heads and thinking 'we told you so,'" Austin said. "Today's news is simply the latest indicator that this law is not ready for prime time and has systemic flaws that need to be corrected permanently. Temporary delays are not enough."
Under the new rules, employers with more than 100 workers will need to cover 70 percent of their full-time workers in 2015 and 95 percent of them in 2016 and beyond in order to avoid financial penalties.
Businesses with fewer than 50 employees remain exempt from the employer mandate.
"Today's final regulations phase in the standards to ensure that larger employers either offer quality, affordable coverage or make an employer responsibility payment starting in 2015 to help offset the cost to taxpayers of coverage or subsidies to their employees," said Mark Mazur, assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy.
The department also plans to streamline reporting requirements for employers that cover all or most of their workers.
"While about 96 percent of employers are not subject to the employer responsibility provision, for those employers that are, we will continue to make the compliance process simpler and easier to navigate," Mazur said.
(Atlanta Business Chronicle)