Obamacare Update: Mandate Delayed Again, New Enrollee Numbers Released
White House officials said Wednesday that almost 3.3 million people have signed up for health insurance under Obamacare as of February 1, 2014.
They also said that the number of enrollees who are young adults – an important age group being targeted by the administration – increased during the month of January by 3 percentage points.
Comprised of young adults aged 18 to 35, the rise in this highly targeted demographic is an "encouraging trend", said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
She said that it indicates more Americans are signing up every day and “finding quality, affordable coverage in the marketplace."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also reported that the total number of people (all ages) enrolled in Obamacare since February 1 is 3,299,492.
Among that total number, 1.9 million people signed up through the federally operated website at HealthCare.gov, which serves as an online marketplace where people in 36 states can shop for and purchase plans under Obamacare.
In addition, the HHS reports that 1.4 million signed up for a plan through exchanges that are run by the other 14 states, as well as the District of Columbia.
The deadline for open enrollment under Obamacare is March 31, 2014, which is when the majority of Americans are required to have health insurance or otherwise pay a tax penalty in 2015.
Businesses, on the other hand, will get more time before having to pay penalties under the so-called employer mandate. Earlier this week on Monday, government officials announced that they are delaying the Obamacare mandate requiring medium-size businesses to offer health coverage to employees or face a tax penalty until 2016.
This is the second time the administration has delayed the employer mandate. Last July, it pushed the deadline for paying the tax penalty to 2015. Now that they’ve extended the deadline another year, it gives additional momentum to the Republican argument that Obamacare gives government too much power and will ruin the nation’s economy.
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is supposed to make health insurance available to everybody, including the 14 million Americans who don’t have it. Those against it say it unnecessarily expands the role of government where it shouldn’t be, while imposing penalties on both businesses and individuals for failing to purchase health coverage.
So now that the mandate has been delayed once again, businesses with 50 to 99 full-time workers have until 2016 to offer health insurance to employees or else face a penalty.
For those businesses with 100 or more full-time workers, the latest rules say that they are required to offer health coverage to 70 percent of the total number of full-time employees in 2015 or else pay a penalty.
But starting in 2016 and thereafter, such businesses must offer coverage to 95 percent of their employees.
According to the Treasury Department, these final rules are the result of listening to input from members of Congress, as well as comments from businesses.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace increases by 53 percent in January, published February 12, 2014.