President Barack Obama said a delay until 2016 in his health care mandate for mid-sized employers is an adjustment that doesn’t undermine the law.
“People are trying to do the right thing and it may take a little bit of time,” Obama said in a joint news conference today with French President Francois Hollande in the East Room of the White House.
Employers with fewer than 100 workers won’t have to provide health insurance until 2016 under Obamacare, while larger firms have to cover at least 70 percent of the workforce starting next year, the Internal Revenue Service said in a rule issued yesterday.
The delay means many small businesses won’t be dealing with complying later this year when voters are going to the polls in congressional elections. Republicans are using the troubled roll-out of the health law against Democratic candidates in the campaigns for the Nov. 4 election, which will determine control of the U.S. House and Senate.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act envisioned that employers with 50 or more workers would be required to provide health benefits.
Under pressure from business groups, the Obama administration has weakened that requirement since July, first by delaying enforcement of the mandate until 2015. Many firms will have even more time under the new regulation.
The administration is trying to “make it work for the American people and their employers in an optimal sort of way,” Obama said today.
The new rule provides employers far more flexibility than allowed by the language of the health law, which levies fines of as much as $3,000 per worker against firms that don’t comply with the requirement.
Republicans have criticized Obama for acting administratively to change the terms of the health-care overhaul for select groups, including employers and insurers. They have called on him to delay the law’s requirement that most individual Americans carry health insurance or pay a fine, which took effect Jan. 1. He has declined.
Employers with fewer than 100 workers will have to certify to the government that they haven’t fired workers to get under the threshold and qualify for the delay until 2016. They also must certify they won’t drop health plans they already offer, officials said.
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