Former Obama spokesman Gibbs predicts employer mandate will be scrapped

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says that the employer mandate will likely be cut from Obamacare, but his successor disagrees.

“I don’t think the employer mandate will go into effect,” Gibbs told an audience at the 2014 Benefits Selling Expo, according to BenefitsPro. “It’s a small part of the law. I think it will be one of the first things to go.”

In the first iteration of Obamacare, all firms with more than 50 full-time equivalent workers — defined as those working an average of 30 hours a week or more — were required to comply with the mandate.

The mandate forces firms that employ more than 50 full-time workers to provide health coverage, or else they must pay a fine of up to $2,000 per uncovered employee. Firms will be docked on their federal income taxes.

Jay Carney, Obama’s current press secretary dismissed Gibbs’ prediction in a White House press conference on Thursday. “You can make predictions all the time and they turn out not to be true,” said Carney, adding that he does not expect further delays in the employer mandate.

As with many components of Obamacare, the employer mandate has been delayed multiple times. Last July, it was pushed back until 2015 for all firms meeting the 50 employee threshold.

Firms that employ between 50 and 99 workers were given further reprieve earlier this year. They won’t be forced to comply with the mandate until 2016.

The administration also relaxed the mandate for firms that employ more than 100 workers. Initially, those firms had to provide coverage for at least 95 percent of their full-time workers. That requirement was pushed back to 2016. Starting in 2015, those firms will have to cover 70 percent of their workers.

Gibbs provided more insight into his thinking on the health-care law in his hour-long talk at Wednesday’s trade expo.

According to BenefitsPro, the former Obama official said he questioned whether or not the individual mandate should be part of the law. The individual mandate has been perhaps the most contested aspect of Obamacare.

Gibbs also said he was embarrassed about Obamacare’s rollout, calling it “truly horrible.” (RELATED: The definitive roundup of Obamacare’s worst delays)

And he said he cringed when then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.”

Despite that, the former Obama press secretary maintained his support for Obamacare, which the administration claims passed its goal of seven million federal exchange sign-ups.

“Change hasn’t been easy and it won’t be easy,” Gibbs said, according to BenefitsPro. “It will be a long time before we know how this will play out. But the law has real potential to work.”

Gibbs also offered suggestions for how to improve Obamacare going forward saying that better outreach — including better education about incentives and sign-up deadlines — was needed.

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