'Once Again Moving the Goalposts': Regs Give Obamacare Reprieves to Medium, Large Employers

WASHINGTON -- After news broke today that the Obama administration unilaterally decided to delay the health insurance mandate for medium-sized employers until 2016, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) tweeted a cartoon of a football refs moving the goalpost farther and farther away from the end zone.

"The Obama Administration once again moving the goalposts on #Obamacare," Hastings tweeted.

Beginning next year, businesses that employ 50 to 99 workers will have to report statistics to the government on how many employees are being offered or are receiving health insurance. These employers won't be assessed penalties on the non-insured until 2016, though. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees are already exempt from the mandate.

Employers with 100 or more workers will be able to phase in coverage under the final regulations released today by the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service. Employers need to offer coverage to 70 percent of full-time workers in 2015 and 95 percent in 2016 and beyond to avoid being assessed fines starting next year.

“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 Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark J. Mazur.

The ruling also said "hours contributed by bona fide volunteers for a government or tax-exempt entity, such as volunteer firefighters and emergency responders, will not cause them to be considered full-time employees" for the purpose of Obamacare requirements and penalties, addressing one of the many controversies surrounding the law.

Republicans not only jumped on the latest midterm election cycle move, but called out the administration for not absolving ordinary Americans of the individual mandate penalties.

“This latest unilateral delay is further evidence that the healthcare law is hurting the economy. The White House is doing everything possible to hide the devastating impacts of this law until after the election," said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). "While this may be a temporary break for employers, middle-class families will still be forced to prove they have expensive, government mandated insurance. After all the waivers and delays, Americans continue to ask, ‘What about me?’"

"Hard-working taxpayers have suffered for too long under the weight of the devastating impacts of President Obama’s signature healthcare law. Instead of focusing on short-term patches for insurance companies and corporations, it’s time for President Obama to delay the penalties that threaten millions of Americans instead," said Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise (R-La.).

“Attempting to bail out some while abandoning the majority of Americans will not hide the failure of Obamacare. Laws are not made to be selectively enforced whenever the Obama Administration wants to try salvaging low poll numbers," Scalise added. "It is time for President Obama to admit his broken healthcare law has failed, and join with House Republicans to suspend the penalties and stop this train wreck before more hard-working families are harmed.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said the administration’s "ad hoc implementation of Obamacare adds significant uncertainty to the economy and further hinders small businesses from expanding and creating jobs in the long run.”