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More deadline changes for Affordable Care Act

The Obama administration is giving employers more time to comply with rules requiring them to provide affordable health insurance for their workers.

Mid-sized companies with 50 to 99 employees will now have until 2016 to provide affordable coverage under the Affordable Care Act, a year later than expected.

Larger companies are getting a bit of a break too — they must offer insurance to only 70 percent of full-time workers in 2015, rather than 95 percent. The higher threshold will begin in 2016.

Companies with fewer than 50 people on staff are not subject to the Affordable Care Act employer mandate.

The announcement marked the latest delay in the Affordable Care Act rollout, which has been plagued by problems. Employers were originally required to provide affordable coverage to their workers this year, but the administration said last July that companies could have another year to comply.

Once the employer mandate kicks in, companies with 50 or more workers must offer affordable coverage to their staffs or face penalties. Affordable insurance means that a worker doesn’t have to spend more than 9.5 percent of his/her income on premiums for employee-only coverage. (The health reform law does not consider the affordability of family coverage.)

Companies that don’t provide insurance will be fined $2,000 per employee. But they will be subject to a $3,000 penalty if they don’t offer affordable coverage and one of their workers buys a subsidized plan on the individual exchange.

The announcement also clarified which employees count toward the headcount. Volunteers and seasonal workers employed for six months or less do not. Teachers and other school employees do, even if they have summers off.

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