Obamacare's Employer Mandate Delayed

Certain small business owners now have until 2016 to offer their workers’ health insurance.

Rosemary Cabelo uses a computer at a public library to access the Affordable Health Care Act website on Dec. 11, 2013, in San Antonio.

Employers with between 50 and 99 employees will now have until 2016 to provide health insurance coverage before being penalized.

By + More

Few things about the health care overhaul are ever “final.” Nonetheless, the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department shared their “final regulations" Monday regarding the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate — a requirement that business owners provide health insurance for their employees under certain conditions.

The rules include a second delay of the health care provision that governs small businesses —  it was slated for enforcement in 2014, then 2015 . Now employers with between 50 and 99 employees, who do not yet offer affordable health insurance have until 2016, before they will be penalized. In 2015, employers must report on the insurance status of their workers.

“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,” said Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark J. Mazur. 
This latest statement also resolved certain knotty questions such as whether volunteers such as firefighters and emergency responders qualify as full-time employees. They do not.

The rules also stated employers with more than 100 workers must provide coverage, but can do so in phases insuring 70 percent of their workers in 2015 and 95 percent of their workers by 2016. According to the IRS, most large business owners already do provide affordable health care, however those employers who do not comply will pay an “employer shared responsibility payment” to offset the tax burden for employees getting health care through the marketplace in 2015.

The IRS and Treasury Department hinted that other final regulations meant to simplify the reporting requirements for employers who provide inexpensive health coverage for nearly all of their full-time employees, will be released shortly.

“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.” Mazur added.
Critics of Obamacare, mainly Republicans, will no doubt be riled by the new shift in policy, particularly as it was implemented independent of congressional approval, reported Businessweek.

The Treasury Department has  the power to shape the new health care law in ways that offer the best chance of a positive result.

Employers with fewer than 100 workers must also prove they haven't  fired workers in order to  qualify for the delay until 2016, noted Businessweek.