(CNSNews.com) - White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Thursday that the employer mandate -- twice delayed by administration fiat -- "will be phased in, starting next year."
"The final rules were put out in February, and this will be phased in starting next year, in accordance with the final rules," he said.
Carney was asked to respond to comments from Robert Gibbs -- the man who preceded him as White House spokesman.
On Wednesday, Gibbs was quoted as saying, “I don’t think the employer mandate will go into effect. It’s a small part of the law. I think it will be one of the first things to go." Gibbs was speaking to the 2014 Benefits Selling Expo in Colorado Springs.
"This requirement ensures that larger employers either offer quality, affordable coverage to their employees or help offset the cost to taxpayers of these uncovered employees getting tax credits through the health insurance marketplace," Carney said at the White House. He also noted that the individual mandate -- requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance or else pay a fine -- starts this year.
"We're going to continue to implement the law," Carney said.
According to the U.S. Treasury Department, approximately 96 percent of employers are small businesses with fewer than 50 workers and are therefore exempt from the employer mandate.
This past February, the Treasury Department announced that to make the phase-in smoother, the mandate would "generally apply to larger firms with 100 or more full-time employees starting in 2015 and to employers with 50 or more full-time employees starting in 2016."
And to avoid a penalty for failing to offer health coverage, employers must offer health insurance to 70 percent of their full-time employees in 2015 and 95 percent in 2016 and beyond.
As CNSNews.com has reported, by issuing the new regulation two months ago, the Obama administration was directly violating the plain language of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which says the "effective date" of the employer mandate shall be the "months beginning after December 31, 2013.”
Gibbs said most companies with 100 or more employees already offer health insurance. In his speech, he also said Americans should be given an additional option -- a "layer of coverage cheaper than the plans already offered.”