AP Photo/J. Scott ApplewhiteIn this June 7

AP Photo/J. Scott ApplewhiteIn this June 7

Obama admin delays major requirement of health law

WASHINGTON — In a major concession to business groups, the Obama administration Tuesday unexpectedly announced a one-year delay, until 2105, in a central requirement of the new health care law that medium and large companies provide coverage for their workers or face fines.

The move sacrificed timely implementation of President Barack Obama's signature legislation but may help the administration politically by blunting a line of attack Republicans were planning to use in next year's congressional elections. The employer requirements are among the most complex parts of the health care law, which is designed to expand coverage for uninsured Americans.

“We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively,” Treasury Assistant Secretary Mark Mazur said in a blog post. “We have listened to your feedback and we are taking action.”

Business groups were jubilant. “A pleasant surprise,” said Randy Johnson, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There was no inkling in advance of the administration's action, he said.

Under the law, companies with 50 or more workers must provide affordable coverage to their full-time employees or risk a series of escalating tax penalties if just one worker ends up getting government-subsidized insurance.

Originally, that requirement was supposed to take effect next Jan. 1. Business groups complained since the law passed that the provision was too complicated. For instance, the law created a new definition of full-time workers, those putting in 30 hours or more. But such complaints until now seemed to be going unheeded.

The delay in the employer requirement does not affect the law's requirement that individuals carry health insurance starting next year or face fines. That so-called individual mandate was challenged all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled last year that requirement was constitutional since the penalty would be collected by the Internal Revenue Service and amounted to a tax.

Tuesday's action is sure to anger liberals and labor groups, but it could provide cover for Democratic candidates in next year's congressional elections.

The move undercuts Republican efforts to make the overhaul and the costs associated with new requirements a major issue in congressional races. Democrats are defending 21 Senate seats to the Republicans' 14, and the GOP had already started to excoriate Senate Democrats who had voted for the health law in 2009.

Senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett cast the decision as part of an effort to simplify data reporting requirements.

She said since enforcing the coverage mandate is dependent on businesses reporting about their workers' access to insurance, the administration decided to postpone the reporting requirement, and with it, the mandate to provide coverage.

“We have and will continue to make changes as needed,” Jarrett wrote in a White House blog post. “In our ongoing discussions with businesses we have heard that you need the time to get this right. We are listening.”

Republicans called it a validation of their belief that the law is unworkable and should be repealed.

“Obamacare costs too much and it isn't working the way the administration promised,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “The White House seems to slowly be admitting what Americans already know … that Obamacare needs to be repealed and replaced with common-sense reforms that actually lower costs for Americans.”

Barack ObamahealthcareUSValerie Jarret

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Nicole Canedo looks at her City-issued Medical Reimbursement Account page on her computer outside her Berkeley apartment on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. Canedo has worked numerous retail jobs in The City and the MRA has helped her with health costs. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Millions left sitting in medical reimbursement accounts by city workers

Health officials looking at how to improve access, outreach as untapped funds reach $409M

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF moves into purple tier, triggering curfew and business shutdowns

San Francisco moved into the state’s purple COVID-19 tier Saturday, requiring The… Continue reading

Indecline, an art activist collective in San Francisco, transformed a billboard into an editorial with a message blasting immigration policies of Donald Trump’s administration. (Screenshot, Indecline website)
Has immigration fallen off the administration’s radar? Not a chance

Enforced as executive orders, Trump’s hardline policies are proceeding, against will of the people

University of San Francisco head coach Todd Golden coaches his team on defense during a 2019 gameat War Memorial Gymnasium on the campus of the University of San Francisco. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)
Stunner in Bubbleville: USF upsets fourth-ranked Virginia

Less than 48 hours removed from a loss to a feeble UMass… Continue reading

A dinner at three Michelin Stars restaurant The French Laundry in Yountville, Napa Valley has highlighted Gov. Gavin Newsom’s relationship with a well-known lobbyist. (Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock)
The lobbyist who led Gavin Newsom to the French Laundry has a history of controversy

Lara Korte and Sophia Bollag The Sacramento Bee When photos circulated earlier… Continue reading

Most Read