Businesses reacted with relief to the Obama administration's decision to give large and midsize employers until 2015 to provide health care coverage for their workers or face fines.
Before the administration's announcement Tuesday, businesses with 50 or more employees had to provide affordable coverage to their full-time employees starting Jan. 1 or risk a series of penalties if even one worker ended up getting government-subsidized insurance.
Reaction marked a divide between representatives of big business, who mostly provide insurance already and were focused on complying with complex new reporting rules, and representatives of small business who said they need much bigger changes.
"The delay may also calm the nerves of small business people, who have been reluctant to expand because of the new mandate," said Mark Cerminaro, senior vice president of small-business lending company RapidAdvance.
"Since the economy is expected to be growing faster by late 2014, the delay will let small-company owners buy insurance or pay the penalties without worrying as much about how it will affect their businesses," he said.
"You have a tendency, where there's economic uncertainty already, to see individuals get a little more cautious,'' he said. ``With the extra time, they'll have an extra confidence level.''
Contributing: Julie Schmit in San Francisco; Byron Acohido in Kingston, Wash.; Matt Krantz in Los Angeles, the Associated Press