The White House will delay for another year an Obamacare mandate requiring that employers with fewer than 100 workers provide health insurance to their staff or face a fine.
The move is the latest in a series of actions the White House has taken in response to the disastrous implementation of the Affordable care Act.
This is the second time that the White House has moved to delay the small business mandate. It was originally scheduled to take effect at the beginning of 2014, but that was obviously delayed.
The Treasury Department said Monday that it would give businesses with more than 100 employees additional time to prepare for adding coverage.
It’s important to note that businesses with fewer than 50 employees will still be exempt from the law’s penalties. Monday’s delay will apply to business with more than 50 but fewer than 100 employees.
“Larger businesses, most of which already offer health benefits, still need to start covering full time workers next year — but they don’t have to cover all of them. They have to cover 70 percent in the first year and 95 in 2016 to avoid,” Politico reported.
A senior Treasury official said the move “is meant to “ease the transition to a 30-hour week.”
The delay could ease up some of the pressure vulnerable Democratic lawmakers, including Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), have dealt with coming into this year’s midterm elections. However, if Republicans decide to go on the offensive, they could do some real damage by arguing that the business delays are unfair considering individuals don’t get a delay.
“While this may be a temporary break for employers, middle class families will still be forced to prove they have expensive, government mandated insurance. After all the waivers and delays, Americans continue to ask – ‘what about me?’” Sen. John Barasso (R-Wyo.) said in a statement. “It’s time to eliminate the individual mandate.”
Most Americans will have to sign up for health insurance by the end of 2014 or face a fine.
Currently, the fine for individuals who don’t want to buy into a health insurance plan is $95 or one percent of the person’s income, whichever is greater.
But that amount is expected to grow significantly in 2016.
The constant Obamacare delays raise serious questions about the White House’s authority to unilaterally adjust the law. The United States Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that Obamacare was constitutional so long as it was regarded as a tax.
But considering the fact that Congress has power of the purse, the White House’s decision to pick and choose which portions of the law to delay has a few critics crying foul.
“In the tax code, the secretary has very broad authority to implement tax law in a way that benefits the tax administration and we think phase-in approach really is a way to administer the law better,” an official explained to Politico. “The basic idea here is that you want to get this right in the long term.”
White House officials said they hope the momentary delay will prevent employers from slashing employee hours and firing workers to avoid penalties.
“That was the chief complaint against the earlier policy – that employers were reducing workers’ hours and cutting their workforce to avoid the 30-hour definition of full time and to get under the cut-off of 50 employees for the health coverage requirement,” Politico reported. “However, it’s not clear how the IRS will verify the reasons employers give. Officials described the process as one of ‘self-attestation.’”
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This post has been updated.