The administration is giving certain employers extra time before they must offer health insurance to almost all their full-time workers.
Under new rules announced Monday by Treasury Department officials, employers with 50 to 99 workers will be given until 2016 — two years longer than originally envisioned under the Affordable Care Act — before they risk a federal penalty for not complying.
Companies with 100 workers or more are getting a different kind of one-year grace period. Instead of being required in 2015 to offer coverage to 95 percent of full-time workers, these bigger employers can avoid a fine by offering insurance to 70 percent of them next year.
By providing the dual phase-ins for employers of different sizes, administration officials have sought to lighten the burden on the small share of affected employers that have not offered insurance in the past.
Originally, the employer mandate — which affects companies employing 72 percent of all Americans — was to have gone into effect Jan. 1, at the same time the law began requiring most Americans to have health insurance.
The law says that anyone who works 30 hours or more is a full-time employee, and it compels many employers to offer affordable insurance to those workers and their dependents. It defines affordable as premiums of no more than 9.5 percent of an employee’s income, and employers must pay for the equivalent of 60 percent of the actuarial value of a worker’s coverage. Businesses that fail to do so will eventually face a fine of up to $2,000 for each employee not offered coverage, though workers are not required to sign up for the benefits.
Under the health-care law, small employers — those with fewer than 50 workers — do not have to offer insurance.
Administration officials said Monday that they will issue a separate set of rules in coming weeks that will cover related questions about how employers must report their workers’ insurance status to the government.
Some details in the new rule pleased fire companies, which had feared that the government might have required them to offer insurance to volunteer firefighters and other first responders. The rule also said that educators who have summers off are nonetheless to be treated as full-time workers entitled to be offered coverage. Adjunct faculty members will be counted as working 2.25 hours for ever hour in the classroom. And the rule said that seasonal workers — such as farm workers or extra department-store hires around Christmastime — are considered full time only if they work for at least half the year.
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