Timely delay

7/11/2013

Companies still must prepare for Affordable Care Act change.

Companies still must prepare for Affordable Care Act change.

Businesses celebrated July 4th two days early this year, not with fireworks but instead a health-care reprieve from the Obama administration.

A decision by the president postpones until 2015 a provision of the Affordable Care Act that large- and medium-sized businesses offer workers health insurance coverage or pay penalties. Some business groups have told the administration they still are uncertain about implementation. ...

For individuals, the delay announced this week does not affect the Jan. 1 starting date that requires most Americans to have health care coverage or face tax penalties.

For businesses, some health industry experts say it would be cheaper for most companies to drop health care benefits and pay the penalties. That is just one of many aspects of the new law that left businesses scratching their collective head and pleading for a delay in implementing this provision. And reason enough for the administration to agree to the delay.

Though the reprieve came as a welcomed surprise to business, which claimed it could not implement the rule by 2014, the Obama administration needs to tread lightly when it comes to altering health-care reform.

This particular decision allows companies the necessary time to adjust, but businesses cannot — and should not — expect delays each time they cry wolf. ...

For now, it is good to see Obama so amenable to meeting the needs of companies charged with providing health-care insurance to their employees. The president previously has been accused of being strident and unmoving in his approach, especially when it involves the business sector.

But Obama in this particular case understands that change is difficult, especially when businesses sometimes go out of their way to avoid paying health insurance for their employees. They've often relied on working employees just under 40 hours a week to avoid paying health insurance costs.

So there is plenty of blame to share — businesses that for years skirted the benefits issue for their employees and the Obama administration for pushing too soon and too fast an unwieldy health insurance mandate.

The president showed his flexibility this week. Now it's time for the business sector to meet its new deadline.

-- The Hutchinson News

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