Francois Hollande and Barack Obama

President Obama joins French President Francois Hollande at a news conference in the East Room of the White House. (Michael Reynolds / EPA)

WASHINGTON -- President Obama said Tuesday the latest delay in implementing his healthcare law is an example of “smoothing out this transition” for a small group of midsize businesses struggling to meet the requirement that they provide health insurance to their employees.

“It may take them some time, even if they're operating in good faith,” Obama said at a White House news conference. “The purpose of the law is not to punish them, it's simply to make sure that they are either providing health insurance to their employees or that they're helping to bear the cost of their employees getting health insurance.”

The Obama administration announced Monday that it would push back the deadline for compliance a second time. Under the law, employers with more than 50 full-time employees must offer affordable health benefits or pay fines. That requirement was originally scheduled to go into effect this year. It was postponed until 2015, and now will not take full effect until 2016.

The change's effect on whether employees receive health insurance is likely to be minimal. Most large companies already offer health benefits and very small business are exempt from the mandate. Still, the delay was another reminder of the rocky rollout of the law.

The Obama administration has repeatedly announced administrative delays and changes, drawing criticism from Republicans who suggest the president is abusing his exectuive power to dodge problems associated with the law.

Obama told reporters his aim was not to undo the current insurance system, in which most Americans receive health insurance through their employers.

“I don't think that an employer-based system is going to be or should be replaced any time soon. But what the Affordable Care Act does do is it gives people some flexibility," he said.

Obama described the change as “fairly straightforward” and only applying to a “small category of folks.”

“This was an example of, administratively, us making sure that we're smoothing out this transition, giving people the opportunities to get right with the law, but recognizing that there are going to be circumstances in which people are trying to do the right thing, and it may take a little bit of time,” he said.

kathleen.hennessey@latimes.com

Twitter: @khennessey