Obamacare employer mandate delay surprise, what's it mean?

After today’s bombshell announcement by the Obama Administration that it is delaying the employer mandate for a year, we’re all digesting what’s next for businesses and workers.

The new health care law requires businesses with 50 or more employees to offer affordable health insurance or face a penalty.

Before we dive into the fallout of the delay, let’s get some perspective. In California, more than 90 percent of these businesses already offer coverage and wouldn’t have been affected by the mandate.

Politically, though, postponing it could reignite the fierce debate about the viability of the law. But that’s for another blog.

Regardless, we still have a lot of questions about the employer mandate being delayed until 2015. Here are some we’re pondering as we wait for more developments:

Question 1: Even if business is off the hook, employees will still be required to have health insurance in 2014 under the Obamacare individual mandate. So, if workers have to wait another year to get health insurance at their job, will they turn to the state health care marketplace or exchange in the meantime?

Question 2: And if low-wage workers are without coverage at work, will more of them turn to Medi-Cal because they’ll be newly eligible under the expansion of the program through the law?

Question 3: If the government will miss out on a year of collecting penalties, how much money will be lost? Prior to the delay, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that from 2014-2023 employers would pay $140 billion in penalties.

Question 4: Will more businesses drop coverage for their employees now because they won't have to offer it until 2015 at the earliest?

Question 5: Employees have increasingly had to pay more for less coverage when it comes to health insurance. With the employer mandate that requires businesses to offer affordable insurance off the table for now, will workers have to pick up more of the tab for their coverage in the interim?

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Kelley Weiss

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Kelley Weiss

Broadcast reporter Kelley Weiss is based in our Sacramento office where she’s helping lead the center’s expansion into public broadcasting. Her stories have appeared on NPR,Marketplace, The World, KQED Public Radio, Southern California Public Radio and World Vision Report. She’s produced series about the illegal sale of prescription drugs at swap meets and preventable patient deaths and money mismanagement in Missouri’s mental health system. She won a 2009 national Edward R. Murrow award for investigative reporting and has received several honors in the Association of Health Care Journalists awards competition. She was named a Livingston Finalist in 2011 for a multi-platform project about how tribal sovereignty makes it nearly impossible for mothers to collect child support. Weiss previously worked as a health care reporter at Capital Public Radio in Sacramento and KCUR in Kansas City. Her work has also appeared in Reuters, the San Francisco Chronicle and theCenter for Investigative Reporting. She’s completed a health reporting fellowship from the Association of Health Care Journalists and has a journalism degree from the University of Kansas.

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