Key health reform provision delayed to 2015
The Obama administration recently announced it is delaying a key provision of the health reform act -- that businesses employing more than 50 people provide health insurance to their workers -- to 2015.
Initially, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers with more than 50 full-time workers were required to provide coverage in 2012 or be fined.
"We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively," Mark Mazur, Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy, wrote in a late Tuesday blog post. "We recognize that the vast majority of businesses that will need to do this reporting already provide health insurance to their workers, and we want to make sure it is easy for others to do so."
The requirement for larger businesses to provide coverage is controversial, as some critics suggest employers would reduce the number of workers or cut their hours to sidestep the mandate.
For now, the White House can dodge those criticisms, but health reform is under fire for other reasons, too. Chief among them is the faltering progress of online exchanges, so-called health insurance marketplaces, for each state so uninsured individuals and small businesses can shop for coverage. They are slated to begin operating Oct. 1, but more than 30 states have refused to create their own exchanges, which means the federal government is now forced to operate them on the states' behalf.
For those who do buy insurance from an online health insurance exchange, the government will subsidize premiums for families earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty limit. Using 2013 poverty guidelines, that means a family of four earning up to $94,200 annually would be eligible for subsidies.
Meanwhile, another significant setback for health reform involves Medicaid, a federal-state program for the poor. The law was supposed to expand Medicaid to include more of the poorest Americans, but a Supreme Court ruling last year allowed states to opt out of that expansion -- and at least half have are expected to do so.
Des Toups is a writer, editor and expert on insurance, cars and personal finance. He has written extensively about all three for national publications such as MSN and major newspapers such as the Seattle Times. He has been quoted about insurance issues in The New York Times, USA Today and Kiplinger's.
Follow him on Twitter @destoups