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The Obama administration has partially delayed implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) “employer mandate” for a second time. The Treasury Department issued final regulations on February 10 giving medium-sized employers an extra year to become compliant with the employer provisions under the ACA. The regulations provide that employers with 50 to 99 full-time employees do not have to offer affordable health insurance coverage to their employees until 2016, so long as they certify that they have not fired workers in order to qualify for the delay, and they will not drop the health plans they currently offer.

The ACA, as originally written, provides that, beginning in 2014, applicable large employers with 50 or more full-time employees or full-time equivalents may face penalties for failing to offer their full-time employees affordable health insurance coverage that meets minimum value standards, if at least one of their employees receives a premium tax credit through one of the ACA’s health insurance marketplaces. Last July, however, the Obama administration delayed implementation of the employer provisions by extending the deadline for employers to January 1, 2015.

For businesses with 100 or more workers, the employer mandate will go into effect as scheduled, on January 1, 2015. However, these large employers will get a small bit of relief from the new delay. Until 2016, large employers will only be required to offer health insurance coverage to 70 percent of their full-time employees. The final regulations issued by the Treasury Department phase in the percentage of full-time workers to which employers must offer coverage from 70 percent in 2015 to 95 percent in 2016 and beyond.

Employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees will not be affected by the new regulations, as they are exempt from the ACA’s employer responsibility requirements.