Politics

New Delays for Obamacare Spark Debate in Washington

| by Jared Keever

On Monday the Obama administration delayed another contentious piece of the embattled Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known by some as "Obamacare."

The delay, the second in a year, applies to medium-sized businesses — those with 50 to 99 employees. The new rules, announced by the Treasury Department, stipulate that such businesses would be given until 2016 to provide health insurance for employees before having to pay a penalty. The delay extends the so-called employer mandate two years beyond what was originally envisioned.

Larger companies, with over 100 employees, will also receive a break. Those larger employers will only be required to offer coverage for 70 percent of workers by 2015 as opposed to the originally planned 95 percent.

Treasury officials pointed out that companies seeking to benefit from this new grace period will have to prove that they have not shrunk their workforces in order to comply.

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GOP lawmakers have taken the opportunity to argue, again, that the mandate-based law is bad for the economy and that the delays are proof that the Obama administration is aware of its weaknesses.

"Much like the individual mandate, the business mandate is bad for middle-class families and it will harm economic growth," House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in a statement. "But the answer to this problem is not random unilateral changes.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky agreed but went one step further, pushing for the individual mandate to also be delayed. "It's time to extend that exemption to families and individuals — not just businesses,” he said.

The individual mandate went into effect at the beginning of this year.

While Republican lawmakers keep busy arguing that such delays prove the legislation is flawed, representatives of medium-sized businesses are pleased with the moderated approach the administration has adopted.

 "I'm pretty pleasantly astounded by what I've seen on first read here," said Neil Trautwein, a lobbyist with the National Retail Federation. "This is really the antithesis of the botched rollout of the exchanges, and I think they have tried mightily to smooth the impact of the penalty-mandate structure on the business community.”

Sources: Yahoo, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post