(Bloomberg) — Employers with fewer than 100 workers won’t have to provide health insurance until 2016 under Obamacare, as the administration said it would again delay a key requirement of the health law.
Larger firms have to cover at least 70 percent of the workforce starting next year, the Internal Revenue Service said in a rule issued Monday.
The Affordable Care Act envisioned as a cornerstone of its expansion of U.S. insurance coverage that employers with 50 or more workers would be required to provide health benefits to their employees. 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 regulation issued today.
“While about 96 percent of employers are not subject to the employer responsibility provision, for those employers that are, we will continue to make the compliance process simpler and easier to navigate,” Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark J. Mazur said in a statement. “Today’s final regulations phase in the standards to ensure that larger employers either offer quality, affordable coverage or make an employer responsibility payment starting in 2015 to help offset the cost to taxpayers of coverage or subsidies to their employees.”
The 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 President Barack Obama for appearing to unilaterally 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.
The U.S. Treasury secretary has broad authority under the tax code to implement laws such as the health-care overhaul in ways that will encourage compliance, including by phasing in requirements, senior administration officials told reporters in a conference call.
Among other exemptions, the administration said in the rule issued today that employers won’t have to cover seasonal workers, those employed less than six months.
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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