Businesses get one-year extension before they must offer healthcare to employees 

Pressure is now off for special session of Florida legislature to hammer out details of how Affordable Care Act will work for state’s businesses

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$2,000

MINIMUM PENALTY PER WORKER FOR EMPLOYERS WITH 50 OR MORE WORKERS THAT REFUSE TO OFFER HEALTH CARE COVERAGE UNDER THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT, NOW DELAYED UNTIL 2015

 

$95

TAX PENALTY FOR INDIVIDUALS WHO REFUSE TO PURCHASE HEALTH INSURANCE IN 2014 UNDER THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

 

$51 BILLION

AMOUNT THAT FLORIDA STANDS TO LOSE IN FEDERAL FUNDS BY REJECTING EXPANSION OF MEDICAID PROGRAM TO INCLUDE 1.1 MILLION LOW-INCOME FLORIDIANS

 

“AT THE END OF THE DAY, THIS IS A FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BAIT-AND-SWITCH SITUATION. THEY WANT TO DANGLE MONEY IN FRONT OF US, GET US TO TAKE IT, AND THEN THREE OR FOUR YEARS FROM NOW … GET US TO PAY FOR IT.”
– HOUSE SPEAKER WILL WEATHERFORD, R-WESLEY CHAPEL
Sources: Miami Herald, saintpetersblog.com

DELAYED REACTION

Well, the seemingly endless game of legislative chicken that’s being waged by Florida lawmakers against the Mack truck of inevitability known as the Affordable Care Act found a slightly surprising diversion last week while everything else was exploding. It seems that Florida’s larger businesses – like other larger businesses across the country – have been given a one-year reprieve from the threat of being fined for treating their employees like crap by not offering them health insurance plans. That’s right, the businesses are getting a break.

The news came down on July 2 via a blog post by Mark Mazur, the assistant secretary for tax policy with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, in which, rather dryly, Mazur seems to indicate that the feds have been listening to the mounting concerns of corporate America – most of which already provides insurance options to its employees – about who pays for what and how it’s to be reported. In other words, the government is still working on the specifics of implementation and, pragmatically, would rather roll things out a little later than originally intended.

“I was very, very pleased,” Florida Retail Federation President and Chief Executive Officer Rick McAllister told Health News Florida. “This will give us all a chance to take a deep breath and decide how to make this work.”

Except something more than a deep breath has followed.

Jock-faced jerk (and Florida House Speaker) Will Weatherford raced to the cliché machine to come up with his response. “If it’s not ready for prime time, why are they trying to jam it down America’s throat?” he told the Miami Herald. “I think it just clearly shows that the whole thing is half-baked.”

Weatherford had just gone on record restating how much he hates the idea of compliance with the ACA before the news broke, saying that he absolutely, positively, in no uncertain terms, double-bro-swears that he does not think that a special session of the legislature should be called to address the fact that the bicameral bodies did nothing to stop the hemorrhaging of the state’s poor and unhealthy this year – nothing but refuse $51 billion in federal funds that would have helped 1.1 million people. Instead, Weatherford would rather just harness his brutish bluster for another go at pretending the whole thing isn’t happening. Charmed, we’re sure.

But it is happening. In fact, while big business breathed a sigh of relief last week, regular people without insurance were starting to hear the first trickle of news about individual insurance programs through a subsidized federal exchange. There aren’t many specifics yet, mind, just that beginning Oct. 1, the federal government will launch its Florida exchange (because, you’ll remember, Florida decided it didn’t want to operate its own exchange when it decided that the ACA isn’t really happening) and those without insurance will sign up for some level of coverage in order to avoid an annual tax fee (beginning at $95, to increase each year).

And herein lies the problem, one that the Miami Herald alludes to. Much of the pressure on the legislature to call a special session was coming from big business interests (and hospitals) who were afraid of getting fined. Now that businesses aren’t getting fined, it’s unlikely that they’ll be that hot and heavy for a special session. Backs are being scratched, but they aren’t human ones. The mandate is now specifically against the people and not the employers, which sort of unlevels the playing field. We only have two words left on this subject: single payer. Oh, and also: too late.

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