House Republican Leaders Raise Questions About Delay in ACA's Employer Mandate

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By Ralph Lindeman  

 

House Republican leaders July 9 questioned the Obama administration's decision to postpone until 2015 enforcement of the Affordable Care Act's so-called employer mandate, which requires businesses with 50 or more employees to provide health coverage or pay a penalty.

“We agree with you that many of the provisions in the law cannot be implemented within the current time frame; but we strongly disagree with you that time will ever remedy these predictable consequences of the law,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to President Obama.

On July 2, the Treasury Department, citing “concerns about the complexity” of new employer reporting requirements, announced a one-year delay of the reporting requirements and any related penalties for failure to comply with them (128 HCDR, 7/3/13). The requirements were scheduled to take effect in January 2014 under ACA.

According to some health policy analysts, one potential consequence of delaying the employer mandate could be an increase in the number of people eligible to receive federal subsidies, or “premium tax credits,” for the purchase of health coverage on new state-based insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, which are scheduled to begin operation in January 2014.

Background Analyses Requested

The GOP lawmakers, which include House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), asked the administration to provide, by July 16, any analyses relating to its decision to postpone the employer requirements, including:

• change in the number of individuals receiving subsidies on the exchanges during 2014;

• change in the number of employers that provide health care coverage;

• changes to federal outlays and revenue; and

• impact of the employer mandate on increasing the number of individuals working part time and businesses reducing the number of hours employees work to less than 30 hours, the point at which the mandate takes effect.

 

Postpone All Mandates, Boehner Says

In a related development, Boehner July 9 called on the administration to delay ACA's so-called individual mandate, as well. The mandate requires all individuals with taxable income to obtain health insurance, either on the exchanges or--if they are below certain income levels--through Medicaid, if they are eligible, beginning in January 2014.

“Just delaying the employer mandate, frankly, isn't good enough,” Boehner told reporters. “Because if businesses can get relief from Obamacare, the rest of America ought to be able to get relief, as well.”

The Obama administration has defended its decision regarding the employer mandate, saying it was listening to the concerns of business and working with states to provide flexibility in implementing ACA requirements.

“We have made clear all along when it comes to working with states that we are flexible with the way that they implement the Affordable Care Act,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said July 8. “Numerous experts agree . . . that the decision to postpone implementation of this provision of the Affordable Care Act will have no significant impact on implementation overall of the Affordable Care Act. And that's because we're interested in getting it right, because we believe that getting it right will further the benefits that will be available to more and more Americans as the Affordable Care Act is implemented.”

Also signing the July 9 letter to Obama were Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee; Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee; Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House majority whip; Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), House Republican Conference chair; Peter J. Roskam (R-Ill.), House majority deputy whip; Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), House Republican Conference vice chair; and James Lankford (R-Okla.), House Republican Policy Committee chairman.