Republicans Slam Obamacare's Employer Mandate Delay as 'Train Wreck'

Image: Republicans Slam Obamacare's Employer Mandate Delay as 'Train Wreck'

Monday, 10 Feb 2014 08:40 PM

By Cathy Burke

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The administration Monday delayed another part of Obamacare, saying medium-size businesses won't face a tax penalty until 2016 for not providing workers with health insurance coverage, refueling Republican criticism that President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law is a "train wreck" and "jobs killer."

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who has been an ardent critic, tweeted:



And a barbed tweet from the Republican Governors Association noted:



And in a series of outraged tweets from House Speaker John Boehner, the Ohio Republican demanded:



Followed by:



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The Treasury Department announcement follows last July's delay until 2015 for the so-called employer mandate component of the Affordable Care Act.

For most individuals, there's a threatened tax penalty for not having healthcare coverage in 2014. But the final regulations released will allow businesses with between 50 and 99 employees that are not already offering coverage to avoid a penalty until 2016.

For businesses with 100 or more employees, the final rules reduce to 70 percent the number of full-time workers to whom an employer must offer coverage in 2015. Businesses are required to offer coverage to 95 percent of their employees in 2016 and beyond.

In addition, the rules eased worries of state and local governments by clarifying that government volunteers — such as firefighters and emergency responders — aren't considered full-time employees. Also, teachers and other education employees won't be treated as part-time for the year even though their schools are closed or their work hours are limited in the summer, the rules said.

The Washington Post quoted an unidentified senior administration official as saying the Treasury Department had decided to allow medium-size businesses more flexibility because they "need a little more time to adjust to providing coverage."

But for Republican critics, the delay and rules changes just add to the confusion of the law.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who represents Virginia, tweeted:




And Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman tweeted:



Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said, "Instead of a political maneuver to ease the pain of those who work for small businesses until after the midterm elections, the president should recognize the failures of Obamacare and permanently delay the law for all Americans."

"Once again this president has blatantly sidestepped the legislative branch
of government and taken the law into his own hands, picking and choosing
who will suffer from the consequences of his healthcare law," he added.

CNN reporter Brianna Keilar told "The Lead" host Jake Tapper there were "certainly . . . political considerations" for making the new delay, noting it allows the
administration to put off the requirement beyond the midterms.

"But it's also another admission of problems with the law," she said.

On Fox News Channel's "Special Report," columnist Charles Krauthammer said "the administration is trying to promote that it's a timing issue, and we've got to ease them into this, is a farce. It's the substance of it."

In the end, he said, the mandate will have to be canceled altogether because it will increase joblessness.

Krauthammer also called Obama's constant changes to Obamacare "lawlessly" changing the rules, more akin to what goes on in a banana republic. "It's now reached the point where it's so endemic that nobody even notices or complains," he said.

National Journal's Ron Fornier, an Obamacare supporter, added: "The problem is this thing is getting as flexible as Gumby, and if you keep stretching it, it's going to break."

Brian Haile, senior vice president for Health Care Policy at Jackson Hewitt, told the Washington Post the final rule "may seem like an obscure accounting matter, but it gets to the heart of whether and how employers hire new workers – and whether these workers will have the opportunity to transition from part-time to full-time or seasonal to permanent employment."

Meanwhile, Roll Call reported Monday that six Republican senators wrote to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen questioning how the IRS plans to enforce the individual mandate.

"According to many supporters of the [Affordable Care Act], the individual mandate tax is an essential component for the healthcare law to work," the GOP senators wrote. "Yet the individual mandate tax is one of the most unpopular provisions in the federal health law.

Millions of Americans deeply resent how the ACA raises the cost of their healthcare coverage, reduces their coverage options, and effectively dictates the type of coverage they must buy — and taxes them if they do not buy it. Certainly, in the coming months many Americans will also have strong feelings about how the IRS enforces the individual mandate tax."

Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, John Cornyn of Texas, John Barrasso of Wyoming and Jerry Moran of Kansas signed onto the letter.

"Under the law, the IRS does not have the authority to file a notice of federal tax lien or bring forth criminal prosecutions in order to enforce the tax payment," the senators wrote, asking how the IRS intends to ensure collection of penalties.

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Reuters contributed to this story

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