The mixed emotions that Oklahoma City small-business owner Chad Godwin had to Monday’s news of another delay in the new health insurance laws summarizes the responses of local observers.
When Godwin heard that the Obama administration was giving medium-sized companies, or those with 50 to 99 employees, an additional year — or until Jan. 1, 2016 — to provide health insurance, he was glad. The announcement means his company, Godwin Formworks Solutions, which builds storm shelters, parking garages and other concrete structures, has room to grow this year, he said.
“But then I felt sick to my stomach when I realized I could have retained employees I felt forced to lay off,” Godwin said.
Godwin early last year trimmed his workforce from 70 to just under 50 employees, because the original mandate under the Affordable Care Act required employers with 50 or more workers to provide health insurance starting this year, and Godwin was unsure his future sales could carry the estimated extra costs of $250,000 a year. He offers health insurance and pays 80 percent of the premiums, but most of his younger workers now opt out.
The administration last summer delayed the employer mandate until Jan. 1, 2015, and on Monday, announced another delay for medium-sized employees.
Businesses with 100 or more employees still face a Jan. 1 deadline, but can sidestep fines of $2,000 per employee if they offer insurance to 70 percent of their employees who work 30 hours or more a week. They have to ramp that up to 95 percent by 2016.
Employee benefits consultant Maschino, Hudelson & Associates supports the delay, Partner J. Kelly Hudelson said.
“We believe delays to improve legislation can be viewed as positive,” Hudelson said. “We’ve spent the last four years preparing companies for ACA compliance, and it’s proven extremely frustrating for our clients to comply with the continually changing legislation.”
Larry Gundlach of Oklahoma Business Insurors agreed.
“This gives these employers additional time to develop strategies to provide their employees with affordable qualified health plans,” he said. “It also gives the insurance marketplace more time to develop plans that are responsive to the employer and employees’ health insurance needs.”
In other provisions announced Monday, the administration said:
•Volunteer firefighters and others who give of their time will not be considered employees under the health care law. Some volunteer fire departments worried they might have to shut down if forced to provide health insurance.
•Adjunct faculty members at colleges will be deemed to have worked 2 hours and 15 minutes for each hour of classroom time they are assigned to teach. Officials said that means someone teaching 15 hours a week in the classroom would be considered full-time and eligible for coverage, but someone teaching 12 hours may be considered part-time.