The Obama administration’s decision to delay an Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate that large employers provide coverage for workers is a “wise move,” said a top official with the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Affordable Care Act, ACA, Obama administration, health care coverage, National Retail Federation, NRF, Neil Trautwein, health insurance, retailing, Mark Mazur, Treasury Department, President Obama, employer mandate, medical care, Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, health insurance exchanges, health plans, health care law, John Boehner, Obamacare

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Decision to delay ACA provision wins praise

August 5th, 2013

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration’s decision to delay an Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate that large employers provide coverage for workers is a “wise move,” said a top official with the National Retail Federation (NRF).

“This one-year delay will provide employers and businesses more time to update their health care coverage without threat of arbitrary punishment,” said NRF vice president and employee benefits policy counsel Neil Trautwein.

He said retailers appreciate “the administration’s recognition of employer concerns and hope it will allow for greater flexibility in the future.”

The provision would have forced companies with the equivalent of at least 50 full-time workers to offer health insurance on January 1 or be fined at least $2,000 per employee. The postponement of penalties until 2015 came after pressure from companies in low-wage industries, including retailing.

Mark Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy at the Treasury Department, wrote in a blog that the administration “heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively. We recognize that the vast majority of businesses that will need to do this reporting already provide health insurance to their workers, and we want to make sure it is easy for others to do so. We have listened to your feedback. And we are taking action.”

At the same time, the White House left intact the individual mandate, which requires that most Americans have insurance in January or be subject to tax penalties.

A couple of weeks after the employer mandate was delayed, President Obama denounced the House of Representatives’ latest vote to repeal the ACA.

He said the law’s provision requiring that 80% of health insurance premiums go toward medical care cut the cost of premiums last year by $3.4 billion. The provision also resulted in 13 million rebate checks last year, and another 8.5 million going out this summer, averaging around $100 each, the president said.

Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released a report finding that premiums in health insurance exchanges will be nearly 20% lower than expected next year. The report shows that the ACA is increasing transparency and competition among health plans, she said.

Obama commented: “The reforms in the health care law ensure consumers will have access to better coverage at a lower cost in 2014. We’re going to keep fighting ... to make sure that every American gets the care that they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford.

“That’s something that everybody should support. That’s not something that should be subject to politics.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) commented, however: “After months of insisting that things were ‘on track’ and ‘fabulous,’ the Obama administration and its allies have finally acknowledged what Ohio families and job creators already know: The president’s health care law is unworkable.

“In delaying Obamacare’s flawed employer mandate for one year, the administration is acknowledging it has no choice but to provide needed relief to large employers from burdens imposed by the law that are clearly dragging on our economy and jobs growth. ... Still, the administration’s unilateral action to delay came too late for those who have already lost their jobs or have seen hours cut as a result of the mandate before the delay was announced. And it does nothing to lessen the burden of Obamacare on individuals and families.”