White House Defends Delaying Health Care Mandate

The Obama Administration justified postponing until 2015 the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) mandatory employer and insurer reporting requirements, claiming it was done in response to business leaders who said they need more time in order to fully comply with the new reporting requirements. Republican leaders, however, called the delay an admission that the law is a failure.

“As we implement this law, we have and will continue to make changes as needed,” said Valerie B. Jarrett, senior advisor to President Obama. “In our ongoing discussions with businesses, we have heard that you need the time to get this right. We are listening.” Since employer responsibility payments can only be assessed based on the new reporting, payments will not be collected for 2014. “This allows employers the time to test the new reporting systems and make any necessary adaptations to their health benefits while staying the course toward making health coverage more affordable and accessible for their workers,” said Jarrett.

In addition to the one-year delay, the administration said it also is cutting red tape and simplifying the reporting process. “We have heard the concern that the reporting called for under the law about each worker’s access to, and enrollment in, health insurance requires new data collection systems and coordination,” said Jarrett. “So we plan to re-vamp and simplify the reporting process.” She added that some of this detailed reporting may be unnecessary for businesses that more than meet the minimum standards in the law. “We will convene employers, insurers and experts to propose a smarter system and, in the interim, suspend reporting for 2014,” said Jarrett.

A spokesperson for House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), condemned the delay, saying it is a concession to big business interests while the administration still expects the middle class to comply. “The Obama Administration’s decision to give corporate America a free pass on the employer mandate while continuing to force average, everyday Americans to abide by the law is deeply disturbing,” said Sarah Swinehart, a Ways and Means Committee spokeswoman. “Instead, the administration should spend its time focusing on what impacts individuals and families struggling to afford government-mandated insurance. The administration’s decision is an admission that this law is a failure and that we still need to lower the cost of health care for all Americans—which this job-killing law fails to do,” said Swinehart.

The American Benefits Council, however, praised the decision to delay until 2015 employers’ reporting requirements, and potential employer penalty payments under the ACA. “This provides vital breathing room to implement the law in a more thoughtful and administrable way,” said James A. Klein, president of the American Benefits Council.

In addition, an analysis from the Urban Institute found that delaying the employer responsibility requirement is not a critical factor in meeting the goals of the ACA. The Urban Institute noted that the employer penalties are not a driving force behind the ACA’s coverage expansions, and these penalties also are not a significant source of federal revenue.

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