Jewish World Review July 8, 2013/ 30 Tamuz, 5773
The ObamaCare mess
By Rich Lowry
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Washington is riven by conflict and deep-seated division. It is rare indeed that both sides can agree on anything consequential. Therefore it is incredibly heartening that there is now bipartisan agreement that the implementation of Obamacare is a mess.
Republicans have long maintained this of the Affordable Care Act. But now the Obama administration has lent its implicit assent with its astonishing decision to delay by a year the law’s employer mandate. This is what the administration calls, via a blog post by the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for tax policy announcing the decision, “Continuing to Implement the ACA in a Careful, Thoughtful Manner.”
The administration can call it whatever it wants, but there is no hiding the embarrassment of a climbdown on a high-profile feature of President Barack Obama’s signature initiative — although the administration seemed determined to do all it could to hide it. If Bloomberg hadn’t broken the news on Tuesday, the administration was apparently planning to announce it on July 3 — only because the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve were too far off.
The reason for the delay, we’re told, is incompetence. The administration’s story is that it simply couldn’t find a way to implement the insurance reporting requirements on employers within the time frame set out in the law. In this telling, the mandate was merely collateral damage — it had to be put off, along with the accompanying $2,000-per-employee fine on firms with more than 50 employees who don’t offer health coverage.
This just happens to be the mandate that is causing howls of pain from businesses and creating perverse incentives for them to limit their hiring or to hire part- rather than full-time employees. And it just happens that 2015 — the new target year for implementation — is after a midterm election year rather during one. It must all be a lucky break.
Explaining the decision, Obama apparatchik Valerie Jarret issued a stalwart communiqué from Central Command that should take an honored place in the annals of blatant, unembarrassed hackery.
Her message: All is well. Nothing to see here. Yes, maybe we’ve delayed implementation of the (hilariously euphemistic) “employer responsibility payments” (aka fines), but don’t worry: it’s “full steam ahead” with the health-care exchanges this October. Never mind that determining eligibility for the exchanges depends on employers reporting their insurance offerings — reporting that now won’t happen.
“As we implement this law,” Jarrett explained, “we have and will continue to make changes as needed.” But the law is supposed to be the law, not optional suggestions from Congress. In Jarrett’s view, Obamacare is little more than warrant for the Obama administration to decide how it wants to run the American health care system, one executive decision at a time.
It has become a trope among defenders of the law that its flaws are the fault of Republicans because they don’t want to fix them. They must have seen their own peculiar version of “School House Rock”: The first step in making a law is jamming a 2,000-page bill down the opposition’s throat. The second is whining that the opposition won’t fix problems inherent in the bill jammed down their throats.
Obamacare was sold on two flagrantly false promises: that you could keep the insurance you have and that prices for insurance would drop. But employers will dump significant numbers of employees onto the exchanges to save on their own health-care costs. And the latest indication of the law’s price shock came via The Wall Street Journal this week, which reported, “healthy consumers could see insurance rates double or even triple when they look for individual coverage.”
The delay of the employer mandate might create political pressure to delay the more important individual mandate as well, on grounds that ordinary people shouldn’t face the fines that businesses have been spared. Certainly, the maneuver on the employer mandate is a painful concession and a signal of weakness. Now everyone can now agree: Implementation of the president’s proudest achievement is chaotic and off schedule — at best.
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© 2012 King Features Syndicate