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Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Employers and Insurers Welcome ACA Implementation Delay

The recent decision by the Obama administration to delay some requirements of the Affordable Care Act is giving local employers more time to comply with rules that will require them to provide affordable health insurance to employees.

Douglas Gwilliam, president of CBIZ Benefits and Insurance Services Inc. in San Diego, said the clients his firm is helping to comply with the ACA — also known as Obamacare — have welcomed the delay.

“It has allowed them to step back and spend a little more time getting retooled for it,” he said.

Gwilliam said the delay — which was the latest in a series of ACA policy changes and extensions — has reinforced the view that the federal government rolled out the insurance benefit program too soon. Uncertainty about future changes in the law has made companies wary about moving forward with compliance.

“If things keep changing, we are not going to do anything until we are sure it has been finalized,” he said.

The Obama administration announced Feb. 10 it would postpone enforcement of the requirement for medium-size employers to provide health insurance to employees. It also is allowing larger employers more leeway in how they provide workers with coverage.

An Extra Year

Under the new guidelines, midsize businesses with the equivalent of 50 to 99 full-time workers will be given until 2016 to provide affordable coverage under Obamacare. That is one year later than had been expected.

Businesses with 100 or more workers also are getting a break. Instead of being required in 2015 to offer affordable coverage to 95 percent of full-time workers, they can avoid a fine by offering insurance to 70 percent next year and 95 percent in 2016.

Companies with 50 or fewer full-time employees are not subject to the ACA’s employer mandate.

Eric Leavitt — CEO of the Leavitt Group, a privately held insurance brokerage with offices in San Diego — said the delay is being greeted with relief from businesses.

“It’s definitely a positive for our clients that it was delayed,” he said. “So many rules have yet to be solidified.”

Despite the rocky rollout, businesses that expect Obamacare to soon be abandoned will be disappointed, he said.

The Law of the Land

“Make no mistake, this is going to be the law moving forward,” Leavitt said. “The idea of it being repealed, I don’t see that happening. For my business, the Affordable Care Act has been a boom. Clients have to align themselves with a brokerage that understands the effect of the ACA and has resources to help them deal with that uncertainty.”

Brian Cohen — president and CEO of Pacific Specialty Insurance Co., which is based in Anaheim and Menlo Park — said political wrangling over the enactment of Obamacare has made things confusing for businesses.

“We definitely are seeing growing pains with the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “Because of the challenges that people have had getting answers on plan options and the political fighting, it has been more challenging for employers to organize the plans they are offering.”

The federal government now is looking for ways to help businesses cope with new health care requirements, he said. “The Obama administration does not want to introduce any more disruption.”

Steven Escoboza, president and CEO of the Hospital Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties, said slowing down the implementation of Obamacare also could be beneficial to health care providers, who are working to understand new insurance requirements.

“I have not heard any complaints from any of our hospitals,” he said. “Sometimes, doing something slowly when it is as new as this is a good thing.”

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