Affordable Care Act ruling upholds recently delayed employer mandate; IRS issues guidance

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The Affordable Care Act's employer-provided health insurance mandate is Constitutional, according to a July 11 federal appeals court ruling.

The Obama administration recently announced the employer mandate implementation is delayed one year, giving nursing homes and other potentially affected businesses until Jan. 1, 2015, to prepare. Once the mandate takes effect, companies employing at least 50 workers will have to provide minimum levels of coverage or face penalties.

Liberty University in Maitland, VA, challenged the mandate, arguing that by forcing employers to potentially purchase an unwanted product, Congress exceeded its authority under the Constitution's Commerce Clause.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled against Liberty, stating that the “employer mandate is no monster.” Employee compensation substantially affects interstate commerce — for instance, by impacting workers' interstate mobility — and so is a valid regulation under the Commerce Clause, the judges wrote.

“I am glad the court reached the merits on the employer mandate, even though the court got it wrong, because this clears the way for the case to now go to the Supreme Court,” said Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which represented Liberty University.

While Liberty continues to litigate the matter, legal experts have advised nursing homes to prepare as if the employer mandate is still set to take effect next year. The Internal Revenue Service gave similar advice in recent guidance, which encouraged companies to comply with reporting requirements related to the mandate in 2014, even though reporting will now not be required until 2015.

Click here to access the complete IRS document.