Obama Administration Announces Latest Delay To Employer Mandate

News that the Obama Administration partially delayed, for a second time, the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate received heavy coverage across media: all three network broadcasts reported, and several major newspapers carried the announcement on their front pages. Much of the coverage reflects the perception that the White House is trying to insulate Democratic candidates from criticism in a midterm election year.

On the CBS Evening News (2/10, story 5, 1:20, Pelley), Major Garrett reported that in “an election year concession,” the Obama Administration said Monday businesses with between 50 and 99 employees will get “an extra year to comply” with the ACA’s requirement to provide coverage to its workers. Moreover, businesses with over 100 employees will have to cover “just 70 percent of their full-time employees next year instead of the 95 percent previously required.” With these delays, the full employer mandate is not scheduled to kick in until 2016.

Many reports also emphasize that this is the latest in a series of delays for the law. George Stephanopoulos, in a brief segment for ABC World News (2/10, story 4, 0:25, Stephanopoulos), said “after all of those glitches, all of those false starts,” there is “a new delay for Obamacare,” In its blurb, NBC Nightly News (2/10, story 4, 0:25, Pelley) stated the Obama Administration “is delaying another part of the President’s healthcare law.”

In a front-page article, the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, Pear, Subscription Publication) reports that the Treasury Department “laid out a three-tier approach” to the delay: “for larger employers with 100 or more employees…seventy percent of employees must be offered coverage in 2015, and in later years at least 95 percent of employees must be offered coverage,” while “employers with 50 to 99 employees…will have an extra year,” and “small businesses with fewer than 50 employees…will not be required to provide coverage or fill out any forms in any year.”

On its front page, the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, A1, Eilperin, Goldstein) reports that “by offering an unexpected grace period… administration officials are hoping to defuse another potential controversy” ahead of “this year’s midterm election.” Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, Wayne) notes that as a result of the Administration’s decision, “many small businesses won’t have to worry about complying with the law’s requirement next fall, about the same time voters are going to the polls in congressional elections.” TheWashington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, Howell) says the delay “is sure to renew political recriminations among Republicans who feel the White House is protecting Democratic allies in a key election year.”

Still, under the front-page headline, “Health-Law Mandate Put Off Again: No Fines for Most Employers Until 2016 as Firms Pressure White House in Wake of Troubled Rollout,” the Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, A1, Radnofsky, Francis, Subscription Publication) reports that Administration officials insist that the decision to delay the employer mandate once again was made in response to the concerns of the business community, rather than as a result of political considerations.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, Alonso-Zaldivar) says “some major business organizations were quick to praise” the announcement, and quotes Neil Trautwein, vice president of the National Retail Federation, is quoted as saying, “These final regulations secured the gold medal for greatest assistance to retailers, and other businesses, and our employees.” On the other hand, USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, A1, Kennedy) reports in a front-page story that Republicans, “many of whom co-sponsored a bill asking that the employer mandate be delayed…immediately denounced the move and called for the delay to be extended to individuals.” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is quoted as saying, “Much like the individual mandate, the business mandate is bad for middle-class families and will harm economic growth, but the answer to this problem is not random unilateral changes, stoking uncertainty.”