Obama on New Health Care Waiver: ‘Smoothing Out This Transition’

The latest waiver on Obamacare will affect only a “small percentage of employers,” President Barack Obama said Tuesday.

President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande attend a state arrival ceremony for Hollande, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. Lauding the “enduring alliance” between the United States and France, President Barack Obama on Tuesday welcomed President Francois Hollande to the White House for a lavish state visit. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

The administration announced Monday that the employer mandate, which had been set to take effect in 2015, will be pushed back for employers with 50 to 99 employees.

“The goal is to make sure folks are healthy and have decent health care, so this was an example of administratively making sure we are smoothing out this transition giving people the opportunity to get right with the law but recognizing there are going to be circumstances people try to do the right thing and it may take time,” Obama said during a joint press conference Tuesday with French President Francois Hollande. He added that “the purpose of the law was not to punish” companies.

“This is about companies trying to do the right thing and work with us, we’re trying to work with them,” Obama said.

The president also responded for the first time to the Congressional Budget Office analysis that said the work force would shrink by 2.5 million workers – people voluntarily leaving the workforce — by 2024 because of Obamacare.

“I don’t think that the employer-based health care will be or should be replaced,” Obama said. “What this does is give people flexibility.”

Obama used an IBM employee who wants to start his own tech company or a farmer’s wife who can quit her job to help her husband on the farm as examples of flexibility provided under the new law.

The visit from the French president caused a bit of a public stir as Hollande arrived stag after splitting with partner, Valerie Trierweiler, upon revelations last month that he was having an affair with an actress.

On Monday, the two leaders visited the estate of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and a former diplomat to France.

They held a formal off-camera meting Tuesday morning at the White House after a public ceremonial welcoming. A state dinner is scheduled for Tuesday evening.

A French reporter asked Obama if France might supplant Great Britain as America’s favorite ally.

“I have two daughters and both are gorgeous and wonderful and I would never choose between them,” Obama said. “That’s how I feel about our European partners.”

But earlier in the news briefing, making passing reference to the strained relations between the two countries during the Bush administration over the Iraq war, Obama said France and the U.S. have a “level of partnership unimaginable even a decade ago.”

Hollande said: “Our countries have always been friends, always been allies. But now the trust we have is unprecedented.”

The two leaders also took questions about disarming the chemical weapons of the Assad regime in Syria and bringing stability to the country.

“This must not be a choice of a dictator on one hand and chaos on the other,” Hollande said, stating that allies should be sure that extremist forces don’t lead the country after Assad. He later said, “There has been destruction of some nuclear weapons, but not nearly enough.”

Obama said that more needs to be done beyond the agreement reached last year to allow inspections in the country, avoiding military action.

“The Geneva process recognizes that if we are going to solve this problem we need a political solution,” Obama said, adding that Russia has come to the table now to help a United Nations resolution pressure the Assad regime.

“We will continue to pressure not just the Assad regime, but countries like Russia and Iran to recognize that it is in nobody’s interest for that bloodshed to continue,” Obama said.

Obama said the two nations were working closely on global security, trade agreements, cleaner emissions and global health. A climate summit will be held in France next month.

“We will reduce greenhouse gas emissions through concrete actions,” Obama said.

Hollande said the conference is about reaching a “global goal.”

“We want a serious and comprehensive agreement for all developed and developing countries to reach common goals,” Hollande said.