cover their workers. Republicans say the Obamacare change is more
proof the president can’t be trusted to follow laws.
Such businesses will still have to report on how many of their workers have coverage, but won’t have to provide the coverage themselves until 2016 or pay a penalty.
Larger businesses — those with 100 or more full-time employees — also got a break in the new regulations issued Monday by the Treasury
Department. Starting Jan. 1, 2015, larger businesses must cover only
70 percent of their employees, and have until 2016 to cover 95
percent, or face penalties.
Originally, larger businesses had to cover 95 percent of employees in 2015.
The moves are aimed at making it easier on employers to comply with
the law, a Treasury official said.
“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,” Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark J. Mazur said in a
“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.”
The regulations also push preparations for the start of the employer
mandate for medium-sized businesses away from the November 2014
midterm elections. Republicans are planning to use Obamacare as their
No. 1 argument against the Democrats.
Smaller businesses — those with fewer than 50 full-time employees —
still face no mandate to provide coverage. Most individuals have faced
a requirement to carry coverage since Jan. 1, 2014, though the law
allows people to be uninsured for three consecutive months in a
calendar year without penalty, so the mandate really kicks in on April
1. The regulation on employer health coverage also exempts volunteer
and seasonal employees — those who work six months or less in a
Congressional Republicans responded quickly with dismay over the
latest changes to the ACA, furthering their argument that President
Obama can’t be trusted to follow laws as passed.
“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,” House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio said in a
statement. “And, once again, the president is rewriting law on a
The tweaks to the ACA don’t affect as many people as it may seem,
because most large employers already provide health coverage. In 2013,
99 percent of companies with 200 or more workers offered insurance
coverage to their employees, according to the Kaiser Family
Foundation. And 91 percent of businesses with between 50 and 199
workers offered coverage.
Monday’s move follows the news Friday that the Obama administration is
allowing people who are unhappy with plans purchased on the federal
marketplace, Healthcare.gov, to switch their plans by March 31, the
last day of open enrollment.
People who are unhappy with their plan, because for example it does
not include their old doctors, will be allowed to switch as long as
they stay with the same insurer and the same basic level of coverage,
according to The Washington Post, citing a memo distributed Thursday
night to insurers. The administration has not announced the
plan-switch option, but has quietly reworked the code on
Healthcare.gov to allow plan-switching, the Post reported.
The Obama administration has been scrambling since Oct. 1, 2013, when
Healthcare.gov opened for business in an extremely rocky start. The
administration said that it has the legal right to make minor changes
to the law, in the name of smoother implementation, though Republicans
say the president is violating the Constitution, which requires that
“he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
Some in the business community complained Monday that the delay only
postpones the inevitable, and demonstrates that the ACA is tough to
implement. But one group, the National Retail Federation (NRF),
applauded the administration for working with the business community
as the health-care law is implemented.
“The administration should receive a gold medal for recognizing the
enormous complexities of the Affordable Care Act, and its agility and
flexibility in working with retailers and others in crafting these
much-needed and commonsense reforms and revisions,” said NRF vice
president Neil Trautwein.