Affordable Care Act's Employer Mandate Delayed

The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it's delaying a key part of the Affordable Care Act. Businesses will now have another year to prove that they are providing health insurance — or that their employees otherwise have health insurance from some other source. Companies had complained that the reporting requirements to prove this were too complicated and burdensome.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The Obama administration announced late today that it is delaying a key part of the Affordable Care Act. Businesses will now have another year to prove that they are providing health insurance or that their employees, otherwise, have health insurance from some other source. Companies had complained that the reporting requirements to prove this were too complicated and too burdensome. NPR's Julie Rovner joins me now to explain. Hi, Julie.

JULIE ROVNER, BYLINE: Hey, Robert.

SIEGEL: I understand that people had been expecting some parts of Obamacare to be delayed, but I gather this one comes as a surprise. What had businesses been expecting to happen this coming January?

ROVNER: Well, starting next January 1st, most individuals will be required to have health insurance. And along with that, employers with 50 or more workers are required to provide health insurance to their workers or else pay - also pay fines. That part, the part for employers is now being delayed by a year.

SIEGEL: OK. The individual mandate will still take effect...

ROVNER: That's right.

SIEGEL: ...come January 1st. But what accounts for the delay in the employers' mandate?

ROVNER: Well, it turns out there was a problem. In order to make that work, employers were going to have to provide an enormous amount of information, mainly to the IRS, also to these insurance exchanges and to insurers. A lot of detailed information about who they cover, what level of coverage is provided, how much it all costs in order to basically determine whether they're providing adequate insurance or not in order to determine what the penalty should be. The regulations to determine how that's going to work, how that information is going to be exchanged, those had not all been put out yet. And employers were growing increasingly agitated that they didn't know what they had to do and when they had to do it.

SIEGEL: You mean the law was there, but the rules and regulations to implement the law weren't really worked out.

ROVNER: Exactly. And so they were upset they were going to have to do all of these things and weren't sure exactly how to do them. They were getting increasingly frustrated. And I think the administration finally decided that it just wasn't fair to say that you have to do these things even though we haven't exactly told you how. And so they've decided to delay the - basically, the reporting requirements for a year. But since they're delaying the reporting requirements, they then can't have the penalties go into effect either because they can't assess the penalties without the reporting.

SIEGEL: Well, do all of these companies who've been complaining about these burdensome requirements, as they saw them, are they pleased with this delay of a year?

ROVNER: Yes, indeed. At least the groups who have reacted so far seemed very pleased, very relieved. The head of one group that I spoke to said it was a little pre-Fourth of July fireworks, and I think he meant that in a very good way.

SIEGEL: And are there other shoes that might yet drop? Are there other provisions of the law that might be delayed in taking effect before we reach January?

ROVNER: Well, we know that the administration is behind on other things, so other things could happen. But I don't know that we're expecting anything, really, of this level. But it's July. Other things could happen.

SIEGEL: OK. Thanks, Julie.

ROVNER: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: That's NPR health policy correspondent Julie Rovner.

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