WASHINGTON, D.C.: President Barack Obama’s administration announced on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) that it will not enforce part of the federal health care law until 2015, delaying penalties on employers who do not provide health insurance for workers.
The one-year delay raised concerns about the government’s ability to implement Obama’s signature domestic achievement on time, with Republican critics swiftly seizing on the move as a sign the law needs to be repealed altogether.
Employers with more than 50 workers were required to provide coverage to their staff from January 1, 2014 or face stiff fines, but the government was now pushing that back to 2015 to give them time to adjust.
“We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively,” said the Treasury department, which oversees implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“We recognize that the vast majority of businesses that will need to do this reporting already provide health insurance to their workers, and we want to make sure it is easy for others to do so,” Mark Mazur, Treasury’s assistant secretary for tax policy, said in a blog post.
The landmark but controversial 2010 law aims to provide health care for everyone, and includes protections like a ban on denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.
But three years after Obama signed it into law, the ACA has suffered criticism from Republicans who view it as overburdensome and unconstitutional.
Some lawmakers warned that the policy would prompt companies to downsize their workforce or slash employee hours as a way to circumvent the new mandate.
House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress who has long demanded the law’s full repeal, smelled political blood.
“Even the Obama administration knows the ‘train wreck’ will only get worse,” he said in a statement.
The delay “is a clear acknowledgement that the law is unworkable, and it underscores the need to repeal the law and replace it with effective, patient-centered reforms,” Boehner added.
Mazur said the move would allow Treasury to come up with “ways to simplify the new reporting requirements,” adding that the department will publish formal guidance “within the next week.”