On Jan. 1, 2014, all employers with more than 50 full-time (equivalent) employees must provide health insurance for their full-time employees or face fines up to $3,000 per employee. It's called the "employer mandate" and it's a requirement from the 2010 Affordable Care Act, or Healthcare Reform or Obamacare. Got all that? Yeah, I didn't think so. Most of the business owners I know (clients and those I speak to around the country) aren't getting it, or agreeing with it. One recent survey found that "more than 40 percent of small-business owners say that Obamacare has caused them to freeze hiring, while nearly a fifth say that it has caused them to cut existing workers" and a Gallup poll revealed that "half of U.S. small businesses think the health law is bad for them."
So this week the president responded. He postponed the employer mandate for a year. And now here comes the debate. Was that a good idea? A bad idea? Expensive? Does it prove that Obamacare is a "train wreck" as Rep. Boehner called it? Or is it just a political move? It's all of that. It's none of that. It's a brilliant decision! Because it benefits so many people, businesses and organizations. Like who?
Let's start with the president: Hey, he's responding to all those folks out there. He's listening to the business community. He's all about the common folks! He wants a smart government. He's talking common sense. And oh, just by coincidence he's trying to win a majority in Congress and what idiot originally came up with the timing of this employer mandate thing anyway? (Pelosi? Curses!) So let's be smart and really show some common sense... and push this monster to after the election. Brilliant!
468 Republicans. There are 33 Republicans who will be fighting for Senate seats in 2014 and another 435 who will be contesting for spots in the House of Representatives. They are thrilled with the president's decision. They can tell their constituents that he is weak, indecisive and a terrible three-point shooter. They can now claim that this decision is clear proof that the Obamacare is a terrible, expensive and not fully-thought-out idea. And then make promises to fund sheep institutes and obsolete aircraft equipment.
468 Democrats. The 468 Republicans will be facing an equal number of Democrats opposing them and they're loving that the president has postponed the employer mandate decision. This way they can avoid abuse from their business voters who will likely be screaming at them eleven months after the mandate was originally supposed to take affect. Will they be able to handle the abuse from Barbara Streisand, Bette Midler and Whoopi Goldberg? Only time will tell.
1.4 million part-time workers. To avoid the employer mandate, many large companies were limiting workers to less than 30 hours per week so that they were not required to provide health insurance coverage. Great for the companies. But not so good for the workers, where many would likely have to take two part time jobs to make ends meet, yet still not get health coverage. The delay gives these part timers a little breathing room, and a little more time to work more hours so this reduces the chance that we will be eating someone's else's booger the next time we have a Big Mac.
42,000 employers not providing insurance. According to the Census Bureau there are more than 600,000 firms employing more than 50 employees and according to the Kaiser Foundation approximately 7 percent of them don't provide health insurance. Which means that these 42,000 business owners can not only avoid providing benefits to their people but they also get an extra year to beat their spouses, kick a few puppies and pollute the environment too.
100 insurance companies. One of the reasons why the mandate was delayed was to give the government more time to "negotiate" with insurance companies so that they can be part of the state healthcare exchanges, where we will buying our insurance. Translation: more time for the insurance companies to figure out some way to make this more affordable (psst... fewer benefits?) and more time for the government to cut special deals with them so the whole thing doesn't fall apart.
Alec Baldwin. Kind of takes the attention away from that silly ol' homophobic tweet; can I get a thank you, Liz Lemon, please?
27 million employers in general. Even if you're a small business (less than 50 people) you'd still be subject to significant new reporting requirements being planned by the IRS and Department of Health and Human Services. And that's great news because we're always looking for more paperwork to do. Part of this delay is due to the government's effort to make their reporting requirement less complex. We'll thankfully welcome the year off from this fun. But we're not holding our breath.
Vladimir Putin. So where is that Super Bowl ring anyway, Mr. Dictator? Don't think we'll let this health care thing take our eye off the ball for one doggone minute buster.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They, along with many other business groups have been against the whole healthcare thing since 2010. No matter that businesses with less than 50 people are completely exempt. They're more concerned with the long term budgetary affects on our nation's deficits which could ultimately raise our taxes. The delay for them is a win in a political environment where wins for business groups have been about as rare as wins for the Phillies.
Johnny Depp. Hopefully this health care disaster will overshadow his Lone Ranger disaster so he can quietly go back to making those disastrous Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
The IRS. Phew, can you hear that collective sigh? After all the pounding they've been taking about targeting political groups of late you think they really want to jump into auditing employers because they're not complying with the Affordable Care Act? And aren't they already going to have their hands full auditing the 34 million people who currently don't have health insurance but will be still be required to get it by January 1st or face penalties? Wait, am I feeling sympathy for the IRS? Next think you'll know I'll be donating to charities. Darn these rising estrogen levels!
The media. Lots of controversy. Lots of debate. Lots of arguments. That means lots of page views and lots of angry people lining up to fill the advertising coffers of Rush and Hannity. Kaching!
Me! I write and speak about health care reform and its impact on business groups. And I've just been given another year of business. Ka-ching! Ka-ching!
A version of this blog previously appeared in the Philly Post.