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Another Obamacare Delay for Business

WebMD News from Kaiser Health News

By Jay Hancock

Tue, Feb 11 2014

By Julie Appleby

By Mary Agnes Carey

On Monday the Obama administration announced another delay in rolling out the Affordable Care Act, weakening the requirement to offer coverage next year for large employers and postponing it for smaller ones. Here’s what it means.

There have been other delays in health-law implementation. What’s different about this one?

This is the second big change to rules for employers. The ACA requirement for employers with at least 50 workers to offer minimum coverage – or pay a fine -- was supposed to take effect in January. But after getting complaints from business, the administration said last summer it would wait until 2015 to penalize employers that didn’t offer coverage.

Now the administration has moved the deadlines again. Companies with 50 to 99 employees won’t have to offer minimum coverage until 2016. And companies with at least 100 employees are required to offer minimum coverage to only 70 percent of their workers in 2015, down from a previous target of 95 percent.

Will this affect me?

If you work fulltime for a large company, probably not. Most employers with at least 100 workers already offer a medical plan because it helps them hire and retain talent, not because of a government rule.

“For the majority of large employers… neither the employees nor the employer are going to see that much of a difference,” says Steve Wojcik, vice president for public policy at the National Business Group on Health, a big-business coalition.

Employers with staffs under 50 have always been exempt from the coverage requirement. (Still, many do offer health insurance.) They are likely to be untouched, although growing businesses that had been reluctant to go over the 50-worker threshold may feel freer to hire.

Companies most affected are those in the 50-to-99 employee slot and large retailers and restaurant chains, many of which don’t offer coverage to many employees now.

“I imagine we’ll have some employers in that space who were not offering coverage before and were gearing up to offer it in 2015,” said Edward Fensholt, director of compliance services for Lockton Benefit Group. “They’ll probably be delighted with the delay.”

I work a flexible schedule for a big retailer. Does this delay my access to company health coverage?

It might. But it also might delay a cut in your hours.  Once the ACA is fully implemented, large companies must offer coverage to anybody who puts in at least 30 hours a week. Analysts expect big-box chains, restaurants and hotels to offer insurance to some workers who currently lack it but also to limit hours for others to avoid coverage requirements.

Shrinking the big-employer target in 2015 from insuring nearly all workers to 70 percent gives more time for those adjustments to take place, analysts say.

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