By SR. CAROL KEEHAN, DC
CHA president and chief executive officer
The Obama administration announced in July that it would delay for one year, until 2015, the mandate that large employers provide affordable health insurance to workers or pay a penalty.
The decision was made to ensure a smooth transition and to allow employers time to meet new reporting requirements including the number of employees, their health insurance status and whether the employer offers affordable health insurance coverage. As with all new laws, there are challenges with implementing the Affordable Care Act and managing its complexities. These challenges also represent an opportunity to make sure we get it right the first time around.
As it is, at least 98 percent of businesses with more than 200 employees already provide health insurance coverage to at least some of their employees, as do 94 percent of businesses with 50 to 199 employees, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The employer mandate requires businesses with more than 50 employees to offer affordable coverage or pay a fine of approximately $2,000 per worker. According to the White House and Affordable Care Act advocates, delaying the mandate's effective date allows regulators time to cut red tape, simplify the reporting requirements and give businesses additional time to plan and comply with the law.
Hospitals too should have the extra time they need to adapt to coming changes and maintain their financial viability as new rules and systems are put in place. Delaying the business mandate underlines the need to be careful and deliberate. For this reason, we fully support the bill introduced by Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., to delay for two years, until 2016, scheduled cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) programs. These payments provide additional funding to hospitals that serve a large number of uninsured and low-income patients.
Hospitals agreed to have disproportionate share funding cuts included in the Affordable Care Act because greater health insurance coverage levels would mean less uncompensated care. Until we are certain the coverage expansion is working as intended, a delay in the disproportionate share funding cuts is both wise and fair. I encourage lawmakers to support the DSH Reduction Relief Act (H.R. 1920) and hope hospital leaders will do so as well.
Like many in the ministry who worked so hard to pass and defend the Affordable Care Act, I want to see the law fully implemented. I also want to see it succeed. The employer mandate delay and DSH bill should be viewed as opportunities to get it right, which is vitally important as we create the health care system we all deserve.