Obama downplays mandate delay

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President Obama on Tuesday downplayed the second delay of ObamaCare’s employer mandate, saying it would only affect a “small percentage” of businesses.

Obama defended the decision as something that would smooth the transition to ObamaCare and give people time to comply with the law.

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“This was an example of, administratively, us making sure that we're smoothing out this transition, giving people the opportunities to get right with the law but recognizing that there are going to be circumstances in which people are trying to do the right thing, and it may take a little bit of time,” Obama told reporters at a joint press conference with French President François Hollande.

Republicans have blasted the delay, which gives businesses with between 50 and 99 workers until 2016 before they have to comply with the mandate.

They have repeatedly criticized Obama for delaying aspects of the law until after the 2014 midterm elections.

“It’s time to stop creating more chaos, and to delay ObamaCare for all Americans,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Monday.

Besides giving small businesses an additional year to comply, the administration also changed the rules so that employers with more than 100 employees must offer health insurance to 70 percent of their workers — rather than their full permanent labor force — by 2015. They would otherwise face possible penalties of $2,000 per employee.

The administration had previously delayed the employer mandate from January 2014 to January 2015.

The president said that the administration's goal “is not to punish folks.” 

“It's simply to make sure that they are either providing health insurance to their employers or that they're helping to bear the cost of their employees getting health insurance,” he said.

Obama was also asked if he envisioned his healthcare plan leading to an end of employer-based healthcare in the U.S.

In a nod to his French counterpart, Obama said that the way the American system had developed was different from “most other developed countries.”

Obama said he hoped his signature law would increase flexibility while preserving the benefits of the existing system.

“I don't think an employer-based system is going to be or should be replaced anytime soon,” Obama said.