The Obama administration is delaying a key healthcare provision until 2015. (Doctor giving boy injection in doctor’s office)

One-year extension for companies to implement health care law

The Obama administration is delaying the implementation of a key provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to provide coverage for their workers or pay penalties.

The unexpected decision postpones the employer mandate of President Obama’s signature healthcare overhaul for one year until 2015. The provision has long been met with resistance from Republicans and business owners, and now the Obama administration is saying that it is listening to those complaints. Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s senior adviser and liaison to the business community, cast the postponement in a positive light, saying the delay is cutting out “red tape” and “simplifying the reporting process” for big businesses.

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers with more than 50 full-time workers are required to provide affordable health insurance or pay fines. Mark J. Mazur, an assistant Treasury secretary, wrote on the Department of the Treasury website that the delay was meant to respond to businesses’ complaints.

“We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively. 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,” he said.

Republicans and employer groups welcomed the news of the concession. Republican strategist Danny Vargas called the Obama administration’s concession “inevitable” given businesses’ claim that they would lay off people or make full time workers convert to part time in order to avoid high costs associated with providing healthcare benefits.

RELATED: Opinion: Latinos have everything to gain from the Affordable Care Act 

“We are at a point where the administration has to delay or make changes,” Vargas says. “Small businesses are seeing the ramifications of the law. Uncertainty has a negative impact on the way they perform their activities.”

According to political scientist Dr. Gabriel Sanchez, Director of Research for Latino Decisions and Interim Executive Director of the UNM Center for Health Policy, 36 percent of Latinos get their insurance through their employer, meaning many Latinos will likely be affected by the decision to push back on the employer mandate. Still, he believes that taking an extra year to make sure companies get their policies in order works out for the better.

“A lot of businesses do not have a good handle on ACA. If they were to fast track and implement this, it could be good or bad for Latinos depending on whether they are with a company who is doing it well,” Sanchez says.

GOP lawmakers made clear that they were going to continue their efforts to repeal Obamacare through the 2014 midterm elections, a strategy Vargas criticized his fellow Republicans for pursuing through yet another elections cycle.

“Republicans have spent so many cycles trying to repeal the law,” Vargas said, though he criticized “the recalcitrance of the administration to work together to find ways to improve the bill and improve the law. We absolutely need healthcare reform but we could have gone about it in a way focused on private sector individual choice and band together as opposed to this massive overreach.”

This is disputed by the health care law’s supporters, who estimate that 10 million Latinos will be eligible to purchase or obtain insurance coverage.

For Sanchez, efforts against the bill are all part of a “calculated risk,” providing time for the opposition to hammer the legislation  while also allowing the administration to take their time implementing it.

“The flip side is, you rush to get it [ACA] out and then it flops,” he says.

Meantime, Jarrett said that the employer mandate delay does not have any effect on any of the other central provisions of the law, namely the health insurance exchange marketplaces that allow Americans to shop for insurance policies. The exchange provision set to begin October 1st, and would allow low and middle income people who do not have insurance through their employers or other sources to find a policy that suits them.

RELATED: President Obama urges Latinos to sign up for health care coverage

Much of the administration’s public effort has been aimed at getting Latinos to sign up for the exchanges. The Administration has launched a comprehensive online push of resources designed to educate and inform Americans on their healthcare options including a 24/7 healthcare hotline, new website, and Facebook and Twitter pages. During a conference call with reporters last week, Mayra Alvarez, Director of Public Health Policy in the Office of Health Reform at HHS, said the new resources are designed as a one-stop shop.

“Consumers will have a single place to get information,” Alvarez said. “They can learn what a deductible is and where they can get help.”

According to a recent Latino Decisions/Adelante con la Salud poll, more than half of Latinos- 54 percent- in Colorado could not name one specific aspect of the law. Only 18 percent knew that parents can insure their children until they turn 26, and just 14 percent knew that insurance companies can no longer discriminate based on pre-existing conditions.  A mere 6 percent of Colorado Latinos knew about health care exchanges.

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