'Employer mandate' delay will pose few problems to federal health law, RAND study says

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A RAND Corp. study published Monday suggests that a one-year delay in requiring large employers to provide health insurance to their workers will have a minimal short-term impact on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, researchers say a repeal of the provision could seriously undermine the law. 

The employer mandate, as it's known,  requires only large companies – defined as those with 50 or more workers – to either provide health insurance to their employees or pay a fine of $2,000 per worker beyond the first 30 employees.  

The mandate, which will help pay for the federal health law, was to take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. But complaints from businesses about complexities in the provision prompted the Obama administration to postpone its implementation until Jan. 1, 2015. Small businesses are exempt from the mandate.  

The RAND researchers say the loss of the employer penalties for one year amounts to a relatively negligible drop in the law’s funding - about $10.8 billion.  But, the study warns, a total repeal of the provision, as some are calling for, could cause a significant ten percent loss in funding for the law, or $149 billion over ten years. 

Because more than 95 percent the nation’s large businesses already provide health insurance to their workers, the employer mandate is expected to have  less of an impact than the “individual” mandate.

That provision requires nearly every uninsured American who doesn’t qualify for employer or government coverage to purchase insurance by this January, or to pay a tax penalty. The fine  starts out small - $95 for 2014, or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater. By 2016 it increases to $695, or 2.5 percent of income.  


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