President Barack Obama. (Photo: Evan Vucci, AP)
David Jackson, USA TODAY
1. What did the administration do?
The Obama administration announced late Tuesday it is delaying for one year a key requirement of its massive health care law: that companies with 50 or more workers must provide affordable health coverage to employees or risk tax penalties. The provision had been set to take effect Jan. 1; now it kicks in at the start of 2015.
2. What was the problem?
Business people say the provisions would be too costly. They also protest that the rules are too complicated when it comes to the definitions of "full-time" employees and what would constitute "affordable" insurance. Analysts predicted that some smaller businesses would keep their number of employees below 50 to avoid being subject to the law, and that process could start during the one-year delay period.
3. Does this mean the entire health care law is delayed?
No. The delay affects only the provision that requires larger businesses to provide health insurance to its workers, the so-called "employer mandate." Other parts of the Affordable Care Act are moving forward, including the opening of health care market exchanges in October.
4. What are the political implications?
Once again, health care will be a major election issue. Republicans plan to harp on the delays as they campaign against the Obama plan in the 2014 congressional elections. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that "Obamacare costs too much and it isn't working the way the administration promised."
5. How is the business community reacting?
The delay decision is earning praise from business people who have been critical of the health care law. The National Retail Federation said the one-year delay "will provide more time to update their health care coverage without threat of arbitrary punishment."
6. What does the Obama administration say?
White House officials cast the decision as an effort to work with the business community as part of phasing in a health care overhaul that will reform the system. In a White House blog post, adviser Valerie Jarrett wrote that "to help restore middle class security, we are making health care more affordable to businesses, government, and American families through the Affordable Care Act."