Delaying until 2015 the implementation of a requirement under the health-care law that employers provide coverage to workers or face fines is politically advantageous to Democrats going into the 2014 elections, but it is also good for companies that had expressed concerns about the provision in President Barack Obama's sweeping health-care reform.
The health-care law mandates that companies with 50 or more employees provide affordable coverage to full-time employees. Failing to do so could result in tax penalties. Business groups have voiced concerns about the plan because, they said, the law was too complicated and that it would be difficult to implement. Groups from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the National Retail Federation praised the delay in implementing the provision.
Neil Trautwein, a vice president of the National Retail Federation, told The Associated Press that the delay "will provide employers and businesses more time to update their health-care coverage without threat of arbitrary punishment."
Treasury Assistant Secretary Mark Mazur said the Obama administration had listened to business concerns in deciding to put off implementation of the plan from January 2014 to January 2015, but politics likely played a big part as well. Republicans have been blocking attempts to tweak or make any changes to the law, something that in most cases is a routine follow up to enacting legislation as problems arise, as a way to continue to use it as an election issue. The Republican House also continues, almost weekly, to pass bills to repeal the health-care law, even though the bills never go anywhere because the Senate is controlled by Democrats and, even if it passed both chambers, Obama would not be likely to sign a law repealing his signature initiative.
The administration probably hopes that delaying implementation of the provision will blunt some GOP health-care criticism heading into the midterm elections, but Republicans likely will use the delay as evidence that Obama's plan is unworkable, so the delay could still cause Democrats harm.
Either way, the lack of cooperation in Congress between Democrats and Republicans and the unwillingness of Republicans to approve any changes to the law left the administration with little choice but to delay the mandate on medium and large businesses, which now will have more time to figure out how it will work, and push for changes in areas where they see problems.