The Obama administration announced further delays Monday in Obamacare’s employer mandate — which has already been pushed back a full year.
Administration officials said the latest delays are designed to give businesses more flexibility and a longer transition period to begin offering health insurance to their workers.
The Affordable Care Act requires large employers — those with more than 50 full-time employees — to either provide health insurance to their workers or pay a penalty. The mandate was scheduled to take effect this year, but the Treasury Department previously delayed the deadline until 2015.
Now it’s delaying the coverage requirement even further.
Businesses with 50 to 99 full-time workers — people working at least 30 hours per week — don’t have to comply with the mandate until 2016, under final regulations the Treasury Department released Monday.
Larger employers aren’t getting an outright delay but will have more time to fully comply with the mandate. Employers with more than 100 full-time workers must offer coverage to 70 percent of their full-time employees this year, and 95 percent after that, to avoid paying a penalty.
The administration noted that only about 4 percent of employers are eligible for one of the breaks announced Monday, although those businesses employ about 72 percent of all private-sector workers.
The vast majority of large employers already provide health benefits to their full-time workers. Monday’s changes are unlikely to make a significant difference in how many people the Affordable Care Act ultimately covers.
Monday’s regulations also clarify that volunteers — for example, volunteer firefighters — aren’t counted as full-time employees, and they give employers more flexibility when counting workers’ hours. Those steps were designed to “kind of mitigate the way the 30-hour definition works,” a Treasury official said.
Officials said businesses will have to attest that they’re not cutting employees just to qualify for the additional delay but noted that businesses are still free to cut their workforces for economic reasons.
Asked where Treasury found the legal authority to phase in the employer mandate, officials said the department has “broad authority” to implement tax laws in a way that will ease the administration of those laws.
“We think a phase-in approach really is a way to administer the law better,” a senior Treasury official said.
What We're Following See More »
Donald Trump is set to issue a new and more focused executive order clarifying the scope of his travel ban, hoping that the order will survive legal challenges. The new order would focus on the same seven countries, "but would only bar entry to those without a visa and who have never entered the United States before. Unlike the original order, people from those countries who already have permanent U.S. residency (green cards) or visas would not face any restrictions." Some lawyers believe the government will now have much stronger standing, though lawyers who challenged the initial order see the same core problems with the forthcoming ban.
"President Donald Trump announced Monday that Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster will serve as his next national security adviser, filling the void left last week by the sudden dismissal of Michael Flynn. ... Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who had been serving as the acting national security adviser since Flynn's exit, will return to his role as chief of staff of the National Security Council." The pick was widely praised on both sides of the aisle.
"Ret. Vice Adm. Bob Harward turned down President Donald Trump's offer to be national security adviser Thursday, depriving the administration of a top candidate for a critical foreign policy post days after Trump fired Michael Flynn." Among the potential reasons: his family, his lack of assurances that he could build his own team, and that "the White House seems so chaotic."