US Chamber wants flexibility on Obama health law's employer mandate

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is urging the IRS to adopt measure that would soften the blow to businesses from the healthcare law's insurance mandate.

The provision, which takes effect next year, is a cornerstone of the sweeping law. But the business group warns that it could undermine worker access to healthcare if it is not implemented properly.

“The Chamber has long advocated for efforts to support the employer sponsored system and remain[s] concerned that the new employer mandate requirement will instead erode this valued coverage,” the organization said.

In formal comments submitted this week to the Internal Revenue Service, the Chamber lays out a set of recommendations meant to help ease the employers’ transition to the new regulations.

Among them is a proposal to adopt a non-enforcement period for the first year after the mandate takes effect, so that employers would not be penalized while they struggle to understand and comply with the law and its provisions.

The Chamber lauded the IRS and the Treasury Department for issuing several notices meant to explain the new requirements but said, “the time it has taken to get this guidance means that employers have far too little time to fully understand their obligations.”

Employers in states that choose not to expand Medicaid eligibility should be protected from penalties for not providing coverage consistent with states that do, the Chamber argues.

The group is also calling on the agencies to allow the private sector leeway in defining what constitutes a seasonal employee. The new regulations apply differently for employees that do not work year-round.

“Given the number and impact of seasonal employees across a range of industries, employers need latitude and flexibility to apply seasonal assessments based on industry practice,” the Chamber said.

The group is also calling for refined language that would give new employers with at least 50 employees three months before the employer mandate takes effect, along with other proposed clarifications.