Employers who do not currently offer health insurance to employees or who were considering dropping insurance due to new restrictions under the 2010 Affordable Care Act have a lot more time to prepare for compliance. U.S. government enforcement and penalties for the employer mandate portion of the healthcare law were delayed until 2015, and employer reporting rules were also suspended, as was announced July 2, 2013. The “individual mandate” and the state health-care insurance exchanges continue to be on schedule. According to the New York Times, about 85 percent of Americans are insured, so most individuals will be unaffected by the individual mandate that requires all Americans to have health insurance.
The Affordable Care Act required employers with more than 50 full-time workers to offer them affordable health insurance starting next year or pay penalties. This requirement has now been delayed by one year, which delay is being widely reported as a significant setback politically for the Obama administration (the new rules were delayed until after the mid-term congressional elections). However, there is also significant relief felt by the business community. Business advocates had complained that the rules were too complex for small businesses. For example, it is difficult to determine how to count full-time employees for purposes of eligibility and also hard to calculate whether it would be less expensive for a small employer to pay the penalties than to offer affordable healthcare. Some employers close to the 50 full-time employee minimum were reportedly considering cutting their workforce or reducing the number of hours employees worked so they would not have to comply. Other employers who offer health insurance were weighing dropping the insurance and paying the fines, rather than subsidizing the premiums as would be required to make the insurance “affordable” for employees. Uninsured employees would then purchase insurance through a health-care exchange, to obtain required coverage.