Administration delays Obamacare mandate for midsize businesses

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The Obama administration announced Monday that it would give midsized employers until 2016 to provide health insurance for their workers, delaying another key provision of the Affordable Care Act.

Under the new rule released by the Treasury Department, businesses with between 50 and 99 workers will have an extra year to comply with the employer mandate.

Companies with at least 100 employees will still be subject to the mandate in 2015 and must offer coverage, but they also received a break from the administration.

Under the Treasury regulation, businesses with at least 100 employees won’t be fined if they offer coverage to 70 percent of full-time employees in 2015 and 95 percent in 2016. Larger employers had been expected to meet the 95 percent threshold in 2015.

The administration has not announced a change to the individual mandate, which is scheduled to go into effect at the end of March.

Monday's announcement is the latest delay to Obamacare and comes amid lower than expected enrollment in the law's insurance exchanges.

Republicans are vowing to make the botched rollout of the health care law and its mandates a centerpiece of their midterm election efforts.

“The Obama administration is failing to deal with Obamacare because it is simply bad law," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. "After refusing to accept bipartisan changes to the law, the administration is unilaterally making it up as they go along."

This is the second time the administration has delayed the employer mandate, stoking GOP charges that the White House wasn’t prepared to implement President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

Conservatives have long argued that the Affordable Care Act would especially harm small businesses.

The administration counters that it is merely granting the flexibility requested by certain employers.

“While about 96 percent of employers are not subject to the employer responsibility provision, for those employers that are, we will continue to make the compliance process simpler and easier to navigate,” said Mark Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy. “Today’s final regulations phase in the standards to ensure that larger employers either offer quality, affordable coverage or make an employer responsibility payment starting in 2015 to help offset the cost to taxpayers of coverage or subsidies to their employees.”

Republicans framed the administration's latest move quite differently.

“The White House seems to have a new exemption from its failed law for a different group every month," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“Once again, the president is giving a break to corporations while individuals and families are still stuck under the mandates of his health care law," added Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

This story was published at 4:39 p.m. and has been updated.

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Brian Hughes

White House Correspondent
The Washington Examiner