At times, the blossoming of Obamacare has seemed light on the petals and heavy on the thorns.
The latest dust-up over details involves the deadline for the so-called "employer mandate" within the Affordable Care Act, which requires employers with 50 or more full-time workers to offer health insurance coverage to their employees or face a fine.
Many businesses get even more time
Last summer, Obamacare administrators granted large employers a one-year delay, until January 2015, to comply or pay up.
Last week, the Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service issued a final rule that gives medium-size businesses that employ between 50 and 99 workers yet another year, until January 2016, to prepare for the employer mandate. In addition, it also allows larger employers to phase in their employee plans without fear of penalties. They may offer coverage to just 70 percent of their workforce by 2015 and then increase to 95 percent in 2016.
Companies with fewer than 50 employees who work 30 or more hours per week are not required to provide health insurance under Obamacare.
The reaction to the latest changes? Well, you'd have thought someone stole the book ladder from the law library when that final rule came down, because legal scholars turned all aflutter at the news. Why? Well, it seems when a bill becomes law, as the Affordable Care Act did in March 2010, any deadlines mentioned within the bill are kind of cast in stone. And one of those deadlines said the employer mandate was to take effect after Dec. 31, 2013.
"Nothing in the statute justifies this ad hoc suspension and delay," Jonathan Adler, an administrative law expert at Case Western Reserve University, told Insurance Journal. University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley said the delays put the administration in "a legally shaky position." Andrew Schlafly, an attorney for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, maintains, "Only Congress can change the law."
Unhappy employers sue
If you've been following the Obamacare rollout closely, you may be wondering: Why the sudden outpouring of umbrage over delays that were granted at the request of big business? It's a bit like a toddler complaining that you gave them ice cream without proper authority.
Well, it seems that one or two businesses have filed lawsuits over the initial employer mandate delay, claiming they incurred all sorts of legal and administrative costs to ramp up for the 2014 deadline, and they're mad about it. In January, a U.S. District Court in Florida threw out one of those lawsuits, on grounds the business suffered no "concrete injury."
The other fan blowing on this low smolder? Opponents to the "individual mandate," which requires most Americans to obtain health insurance, apparently feel that this kerfuffle somehow aids their repeal-and-replace agenda.
Nevertheless, even the above legal experts agree that, while the administration may have technically overstepped its bounds just a tad, it's unlikely that courts will be convinced that anyone was hurt by it.
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