By Patrick Temple-West
WASHINGTON Feb 10 The Obama administration on
Monday again delayed a contentious healthcare law requirement
that requires all but the smallest employers to provide coverage
to full-time workers, this time by giving medium-sized
businesses another year to comply.
The so-called employer mandate, which has been opposed by
businesses, was supposed to take effect in January. The
administration granted a one-year delay in July.
The latest change in the Patient Protection and Affordable
Care Act, known as Obamacare, triggered another wave of
Republican calls to postpone a mandate for individuals that
requires most Americans to enroll in coverage by March 31 or pay
a penalty in their 2014 income taxes.
"Much like the individual mandate, the business mandate is
bad for middle-class families and it will harm economic growth.
But the answer to this problem is not random unilateral changes,
stoking uncertainty," House Republican Majority Leader Eric
Cantor said in a statement.
"It's time to stop creating more chaos and delay Obamacare
for all Americans."
Analysts said the change could help vulnerable Democrats in
November's midterm elections battle for control of Congress by
delaying a potential crescendo of complaints from small-business
leaders, a theme Republicans also picked up on.
"It is clear Democrats don't think they can survive
politically if Obamacare is allowed to fully go into effect,"
said Dave Camp, Republican chairman of the powerful House Ways
and Means Committee.
In a final version of the regulation released by the
Treasury Department, the administration said firms with 50 to 99
full-time employees that are not already offering coverage would
not face a tax penalty for failing to offer health insurance
Firms with fewer than 50 full-time workers are not required
to provide coverage under Obamacare but could qualify for
federal subsidies through new health insurance marketplaces.
The latest change also allows larger companies to begin
offering health coverage to only 70 percent of their full-time
workforce next year and 95 percent in 2016. Officials described
it as a gesture to help employers cope with a new definition of
full-time employment that begins with an average of 30 hours a
It also allows employers to determine whether an employee is
full-time by averaging work hours over a period of up to 12
President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy aims to
extend health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans by
allowing individuals and smaller employers to purchase
subsidized private health insurance in new marketplaces set up
in all 50 states.
The rules finalize draft proposals issued in December 2012
and took into consideration comments from businesses and
congressional members, the Treasury Department said.
The regulations clarify that government volunteers, such as
firefighters and emergency responders, are not considered
full-time employees -- an uncertainty that worried state and
Teachers and other education employees will not be treated
as part-time for the year even though their schools are closed
or their work hours are limited in the summer, the rules said.
Additional safe harbors in the rules aim to make it easier
for businesses to determine whether the coverage they offer is
affordable to employees.