President Obama has made his latest tweak to the Affordable Care Act: The law originally required that all businesses with 50 employees or more, starting in 2014, offer affordable insurance to their employees. The Obama administration announced last year that it would not be enforcing the mandate until 2015 (a change the House later tried at least to codify into law — their bill was never taken up by the Senate).
But with today’s announcement, the mandate will not apply to businesses of 50 to 99 employees in 2015 either, only taking effect in 2016. Businesses with 100 workers or more, under the newly written rules, will have to offer insurance to 70 percent of their workforce in 2015, a weakening of the law’s requirement that’s apparently been discussed by regulators for some time, and then comply with the law fully in 2016 (which means, precisely, offering affordable coverage to 95 percent of their workers, not every single one — the law says all employees, but the IRS decided from the beginning of the rulemaking process that there ought to be a margin of error).
The Washington Post explains the obvious: “By offering an unexpected grace period to businesses with between 50 and 99 employees, administration officials are hoping to defuse another potential controversy involving the 2010 health-care law, which has become central to Republicans’ campaign to make political gains in this year’s midterm election.”