8:01 AM EDT Jul 03, 201

Deadline on decision to offer health care or take penalty delayed for year


BALTIMORE —An unexpected delay in part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul is a major concession to some businesses, putting off until 2015 the requirement for most companies to provide coverage for workers or pay fines.

The Obama administration has delayed the deadline for businesses with at least 50 employees to either offer health insurance or face penalties. The White House said it felt employers needed more time to wade through the complexity of the requirements.

Experts said the delay won’t mean too much for most residents in states like Maryland, which is ahead of the game in implementing the Affordable Care Act.

“The vast majority of Marylanders who are going to benefit from the Affordable Care Act will benefit as scheduled,” said Vincent DeMarco of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, a group working to get Marylanders health coverage under the new law.

He said most Marylanders without health coverage are affected by the law’s individual exchange and Medicaid expansion programs, which are set to begin on schedule in October and January, respectively.

But there are some people who work for companies that do not offer health coverage and who may not qualify for the other two programs.

“Who now have to wait another year. That’s possible, but it’s a small percentage,” DeMarco said.

The delay gives small businesses like Santoni’s Supermarket in Baltimore another year to decide if they can afford offering health care to workers or if they should instead pay the penalties.

“It’s overly burdensome to retailers or any small business. It’s unworkable and hard to administer. To be penalized as a businessman — we don’t need any more expenses,” said store owner Rob Santoni.

Republican Rep. Andy Harris sent 11 News a statement Tuesday, saying, “Today’s announcement is a clear acknowledgement of what the American people have known for a while – that Obamacare is bad for businesses, bad for families and bad for this country. As a doctor, I know this disastrous law needs to be replaced with patient-centered reforms that actually improve the quality and access to health care.”

Last modified: July 3, 2013