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Data Points: Why Delay of the Employer Mandate May Not Actually Mean That Much

Last month, the Obama Administration announced that it would delay enforcement of the employer mandate component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in part due to opposition from the business community.  Opponents of the ACA cited the delay as evidence that the law was collapsing under its own weight, while ACA proponents downplayed the importance of the employer mandate in realizing the primary objective of the law – extending affordable coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.

Will delaying the employer mandate lead to the ACA’s demise?

Using economic modeling, we have found that the primary goals of the ACA will not be impacted by the delay, but the delay may impact one of the law’s key revenue sources designed to offset the costs of the coverage provisions.

Under the ACA, only firms with 50 or more full-time employees can be assessed penalties for not offering coverage under the employer mandate; small businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt.  Furthermore, more than 95% of large firms already offer insurance, implying that only a small pool of firms would need to alter their current benefit offerings to comply with the employer mandate.  Our model estimates that less than 1% of firms, employing about 2% of the workforce, would be penalized for not offering insurance to their workers if the employer mandate is enforced.

In fact, only about 300,000 workers (approximately 0.2% of the workforce) would lose their employer’s health insurance as a result of the employer mandate delay, according to our economic analysis. And many of those losing coverage would be able to get affordable coverage through a spouse, the newly created health insurance exchanges, or Medicaid.  Hence, delaying the employer mandate will have only a nominal impact on the ability of workers and their dependents to obtain health coverage.

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