Obama Administration to Delay Health Law Requirement Until 2015
By JACKIE CALMES
July 2, 2013
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that it would delay for a year, until 2015, the Affordable Care Act mandate that employers provide coverage for their workers or pay penalties, responding to business complaints and postponing the effective date beyond next year’s midterm elections.
“We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively,” Mark J. Mazur, an assistant Treasury secretary, wrote on the department’s Web site in disclosing the delay. “We recognize that the vast majority of businesses that will need to do this reporting already provide health insurance to their workers, and we want to make sure it is easy for others to do so.”
Under the 2010 law, employers of more than 50 full-time employees were required to provide them with health insurance starting next year or face fines. Numerous reports had suggested that some companies with payrolls at or just over that size were complaining that they would have to cut some jobs or switch some full-time workers to part-time employment.
The change does not affect other central provisions of the law, in particular those establishing health care marketplaces in the states — known as exchanges — where individual Americans without health insurance can shop from a menu of insurance policies. Under those provisions, subsidies are available for lower-income individuals who qualify.
However, it will be difficult for officials running the exchanges to know who is entitled to subsidies if they are not able to confirm whether employers are offering insurance to their employees. Enrollment in the exchanges is to begin on Oct. 1, and they are to take effect on Jan. 1.
Much of the administration’s public effort, especially at the Department of Health and Human Services, has been directed toward spreading the word to uninsured Americans, especially younger and healthier individuals whose participation is needed to help keep down the price of premiums for everyone else. About 15 percent of Americans are uninsured, so most individuals are unaffected, at least initially.
Behind the scenes, however, the administration has been fielding questions and criticism from businesses about the mandated reporting requirements — especially the Treasury Department, which has responsibility, given its oversight of the nation’s tax reporting system.
Mr. Mazur wrote that the one-year delay “will allow us to consider ways to simplify the new reporting requirements consistent with the law." He added, “Second, it will provide time to adapt health coverage and reporting systems while employers are moving toward making health coverage affordable and accessible for their employees.”
Within the next week, he added, the Treasury will issue official guidance to insurers, self-insuring employers and other parties that provide health coverage. Formal rules will be proposed later this summer, he added.
In the meantime, Mr. Mazur said, the administration will encourage employers to comply with the law’s reporting provisions in 2014, as originally mandated.
In a separate posting on the White House Web site, President Obama’s senior adviser and liaison to the business community, Valerie Jarrett, emphasized that the health insurance exchanges were on schedule — though that is in dispute, especially in states with Republican-led governments that are resisting the health care law.
“We are on target to open the health insurance marketplace on Oct. 1 where small businesses and ordinary Americans will be able to go to one place to learn about their coverage options and make side-by-side comparisons of each plan’s price and benefits before they make their decision,” Ms. Jarrett wrote.