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Affordable Care Act mandate delayed: Who wins, who loses?

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Some employers are sighing with relief, upon hearing last night’s news that the healthcare mandate is delayed.

Under the Affordable Care Act, companies with 50 or more workers have to provide insurance. But now that mandate takes effect in 2015 instead of 2014.

“We’ve heard concerns about the complexity,” of the employer mandate, notes a blog entry from the administration’s treasury department. Thus the delay, to the glee of business lobbyists hammering it.

The effect?

“I think this definitely delays the pain for a lot of employers,” says health insurance reform scholar Sabrina Corlette at Georgetown University.

Employers now have more time to make tough decisions. They could make plans to cover more workers, come 2015.  They could try to wriggle out of the mandate, by laying off workers, or hiring fewer full-time employees. For workers, though, their lives should change soon. In half a year, they can go to the new exchanges for insurance.

“Even if an employer decides not to offer coverage,” Colette says, “the employees will be eligible to go into these exchanges. And if they are low or moderate income they’ll be eligible for tax credits to help pay for that coverage.”

Yet many companies today wake up to no change. Almost all large companies choose to offer insurance. The Employee Benefits Research Institute estimates 95 percent of employers covered under the law already offer health coverage.

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