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Health law's employer requirement will phase in

WASHINGTON (AP) - Angling to avoid political peril, the Obama administration Monday granted employers another delay in a heavily criticized requirement that medium-to-larger firms cover their workers or face fines.

In one of several concessions in a complex Treasury Department regulation of more than 200 pages, the administration said companies with 50 to 99 employees will have an additional year to comply with the coverage requirement, until January 1, 2016.

For businesses with 100 or more employees the requirement will still take effect in 2015. But other newly announced provisions, affecting technical issues such as the calculation of working hours, may help some of those firms.

More than 90 percent of companies with 50 or more employees already cover their workers without the government telling them to do so, but the debate has revolved around the potential impact on new and growing firms. Most small businesses have fewer than 50 workers and are exempt from the mandate. However, employer groups were also uneasy with a requirement that defines a full-time worker as someone averaging 30 hours a week.

Republicans trying to take control of the Senate in the November elections have once again made President Barack Obama's health care law their top issue, casting it as job killer. They want to use the employer mandate to build that case, with anecdotes of bosses reluctant to hire a 50th worker, or slashing the hours of low-wage workers who need to pay household bills. Monday's moves by the administration seemed calibrated to reduce that risk.

The reaction of business groups was mixed.

"These final regulations secured the gold medal for greatest assistance to retailers, and other businesses, and our employees," said Neil Trautwein, a vice president of the National Retail Federation.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was unimpressed, calling it more of a respite than a fundamental change.

"This short-term fix also creates new problems for companies by moving the goalposts of the mandate modestly when what we really need is a time-out," president Thomas Donohue said in a statement.

The administration still hasn't issued rules for reporting requirements on business and insurers, the nitty-gritty of how the coverage requirement will be enforced.

Administration officials and the law's supporters said the concessions were the sorts of reasonable accommodations that regulators make all the time when implementing major new legislation. The Treasury department said Secretary Jack Lew was well within his legal authority in making the changes.

"This common sense approach will protect employers already providing quality insurance, while helping to ensure that larger employers are prepared to meet their responsibility to their hard-working employees," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

But Republicans said they smelled fear.

"It is clear Democrats don't think they can survive politically if Obamacare is allowed to fully go into effect," said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., who as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee oversees the tax penalties enforcing the mandate.

The law passed in 2010 required employers with more than 50 employees working 30 or more hours a week to offer them suitable health coverage or pay a fine. The coverage requirement was originally supposed to have taken effect this year.

But last summer the the administration announced a one-year delay, the first sign of potential problems with the rollout of the health care law.

Since then it's been a gigantic crisis management drill. The new online signup system at HealthCare.gov was crippled by technical problems for the better part of two months last fall. Separately, millions of people who were already buying health insurance individually had those policies cancelled because the plans did not meet the law's requirements.

With the online system mostly fixed, supporters of the law are hoping to turn around public opinion.

When it comes to the impact on jobs, "the big concerns that have been raised by opponents of the Affordable Care Act amount to very little because large employers already think it is in their best interest to provide coverage to their workers," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a liberal advocacy group.

In other provisions announced Monday, the administration said:

- Companies will not face fines if they offer coverage to 70 percent of their full-time employees in 2015, although they will have to ramp that up to 95 percent by 2016. The law defines "full time" as people working an average of 30 hours a week per month. That concession is expected to help firms who have a lot of workers averaging right around 30 hours.

- Volunteer firefighters and others who give of their time will not be considered employees for under the law. Some volunteer fire departments worried they might have to shut down if forced to provide health insurance.

- Adjunct faculty members at colleges will be deemed to have worked 2 hours and 15 minutes for each hour of classroom time they are assigned to teach. Officials said that means someone teaching 15 hours a week in the classroom would be considered "full time" and eligible for coverage, but someone teaching 12 hours may be considered part-time.

- A one-year delay in a requirement that employers offer coverage to dependents of full-time workers. Companies that are working to meet the goal will have until 2016 to comply.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
hallegermany1 February 11 2014 at 3:20 PM

That's right, his plan is working. Black vs White, Rich vs Poor, Marijuana, Amnesty, Minimum Wage, Unions, Lesbians & Gays, Parenthood, Big Business, No Coal, Wall Street, Silicone Valley, Hollywooders, Eco, Climate and Insurance Companies vs Single Payer.

He has pleased the Arabic countries with his policies and injured our relationship with European's and other Western Countries.

Single payer will become the law of the land if the next President is a Democrat. Not Hilly Clinton, but Senator Booker from NJ.

The votes will keep on piling on for the Dems for that's what they want to hear. What will the US Government do for me and the list just keeps on growing.

Within 8 to 16 years Single Payer will be the new US Universal Health Care for all. A 30-40% payroll deduction will be the norm for the workers. They will be the bearers for paying for the poor.

Go ahead a laugh. That's what they did when "Columbus" left Spain for a shorter route to the East.

Lucky me, I'll be pushing daisies up. Have fun you young American workers.

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tcc2119 February 11 2014 at 11:53 AM

In reading most of the comments, I am now hopeful that the beliefs being expressed truly represent a fair sampling of the population. It seems that most of the comments indicate that people have finally figured out what Obama and his thugs are up to. Also, we are mostly in agreement that the Republicans in Congress are spineless. What chance do we have as a country with this kind of leadership. I'm sorry but I now see the glass half empty.

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JOE & SHEILA February 11 2014 at 11:41 AM

More BS, It is well known this a problem from the beginning. ACA still sucks.

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meiguosn February 11 2014 at 11:04 AM

Is there something put into the Affordable Care Act that allows the President to change things, make exceptions for some but not all?

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2 replies
bpante meiguosn February 11 2014 at 11:08 AM

He is the King. He can do whatever he wants.

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Nancy meiguosn February 11 2014 at 11:28 AM

People here weren't around when they implemented social security. Same things happen when you roll out a new governmental program of this size.

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1 reply
Valerie Nancy February 11 2014 at 5:05 PM

True, and look what kind of trouble SS is in now.

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noknrc February 11 2014 at 10:59 AM

it is funny how HP has also posted the same story but with less info and not as harsh and they delete any negative comment directed toward obama.

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1 reply
pbpied noknrc February 11 2014 at 1:00 PM

The Huffsters lost me when their decision makers made the move to require facebook registration as a requirement for posting opinions. Let's see: First, I have to give all of my private and semi-private contact and personal connection data to a thinly disguised corporate marketing scam, before I can be eidited for disagreeing with an official Huff opinion?


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Mike February 11 2014 at 10:58 AM

We are loosing the country people. Wake up and fight back.

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1 reply
core320 Mike February 11 2014 at 11:05 AM

Terrifying isn't it that the politicans we HIRED are doing such harm to a great country.

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1 reply
pbpied core320 February 11 2014 at 1:04 PM

Well, we're led to believe that we are in control, but in reality, the politicos often go rogue, no matter what the public wants, and they are re-elected as long as enough voters get specific pork that they think they need. All along, behind the scenes, big $, either private or corporate, is pulling the strings. Those "contributors" pretty much ALWAYS get what they want.

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hallegermany1 February 11 2014 at 11:28 AM

Mr. President. Are you canceling the "Employers 50-99 Mandate" because of the mid-term election?
What? What mid-term elections? This is the first I heard of this election. Who's up for being elected.

No, No, this has nothing to do with the election in November. We just want to make sure that all the required computer sign-up data is ready for the enrollee's that decided not to sign-up with theirs employers and of coarse the employers group policies are in place to be selected.

Do they have to get a new revised Insurance plan to cover the Obamacare mandates and regulations or can the Keep their Plan and Doctor?

I see no reason why they can't keep their Doctor and current Plan till we are passed the elections and all the new Congressperson and Senators have been elected.
Now let me make this perfectly clear, If offered a plan by the employers and refused by the employee then they must sign up as an individual ASAP or be fined.

How much are the fines for the employers and the employees? Right now we are working on that and we want to make sure that these small business get screwed, oops, I mean getting the right penalty for their harboring of their assets and not spreading the wealth.

I gotta run, I have a 10am "Time Start" with Cloney and J Foxx at the "Liar's Ten Hole" golf course.

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1 reply
Burt hallegermany1 February 11 2014 at 11:51 AM

OMG!! You don't agree with the Presidents policies. You must be racist!

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1 reply
hallegermany1 Burt February 11 2014 at 3:28 PM

Racist. I been called that before on these blogs. That's the chance one takes when he/she doesn't agree with the opposite race. Its a simple and Political Way to blame ones racial profile an not their own programs, conversations, or their own racisms.

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English February 11 2014 at 11:11 AM

6 Million tax dollars spent on advertising the new so called Law of the Land, wouldn"t is be cheaper to simply give everyone the 6 million and tell them to go buy Their own Health Care Insurance?

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pavkevdoc February 11 2014 at 11:19 AM

more people have insurance. Some small businees going out of business cuz they can't afford insurance. Force, force, force doesn't sound to democratic to me. Dictatorship, Russia comes to mind. Those who work hard and can't afford ins and who won't buy will have no tax refund for 2015 Just what I heard. That's going to pissed some people off. Constitution going right down the drain. Couple more years of you have to do this or that may cause civil unrest. To much governing by the people in charge and not much listening. Those who govern less have the respect of the people. People in charge who stay out of the media will have more respect from the people

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jjwpratt February 11 2014 at 10:59 AM


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