Key Obamacare Mandate Delayed; GOP Renews Call for Repeal

Image: Key Obamacare Mandate Delayed; GOP Renews Call for Repeal

Wednesday, 03 Jul 2013 12:10 PM

By Todd Beamon

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The Obama administration's move to delay until 2015 a requirement that employers offer health insurance or else face stiff penalties is yet another indication the embattled law is a failure and should be repealed, Republicans and conservatives said Tuesday.

"The president's healthcare law is already raising costs and costing jobs," House Speaker John Boehner said. "This announcement means even the Obama administration knows the 'train wreck' will only get worse.

Obamacare: Massive New Rules Revealed for 2013

"I hope the administration recognizes the need to release American families from the mandates of this law as well," the Ohio Republican said. "This is a clear acknowledgment that the law is unworkable, and it underscores the need to repeal the law and replace it with effective, patient-centered reforms."

"Obamacare costs too much and it isn't working the way the administration promised," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "The White House seems to slowly be admitting what Americans already know: Obamacare needs to be repealed and replaced with common-sense reforms that actually lowers costs for Americans."

And Barney Keller, spokesman for the Club for Growth, called the delay "a transparently political ploy to help the Democrats who voted for it to avoid the consequences at the ballot box in 2014. This just helps make the case that Obamacare should be completely repealed — period, exclamation point."

On Tuesday, the White House made its most significant concession on the healthcare law since President Barack Obama signed it in 2010, delaying the requirement that medium and large companies provide coverage for their workers or face heavy fines.

The law requires companies with 50 or more workers to provide affordable coverage to their full-time employees or risk escalating tax penalties if just one worker ends up getting government-subsidized insurance.

Companies would have had to pay the Internal Revenue Service $2,000 for each full-time employee who did not get health coverage, beginning Jan. 1, 2014, when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was scheduled to take full effect.

Business groups have complained that the provision was too complicated.

"We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively," Treasury Assistant Secretary Mark Mazur said in a blog post. "We have listened to your feedback and we are taking action."

Senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett cast the decision as part of an effort to simplify Obamacare's data-reporting requirements.

Since enforcing the coverage mandate is dependent on businesses reporting about their workers' access to insurance, the administration moved to postpone the reporting requirement — and with it, the mandate to provide coverage, Jarrett said.

More broadly, however, the decision undercuts Republican efforts to make Obamacare and its costs a major issue in the 2014 congressional races.

Democrats are defending 21 Senate seats to the Republicans' 14, and the GOP had already started to excoriate Senate Democrats who had voted for the health law.

“A delay — conveniently past the 2014 election — only adds to the uncertainty these job-creators face because of Obamacare," said Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. "The only reasonable recourse is to fully repeal this law."

Tuesday's decision underscores yet another problem facing the troubled healthcare law.

Obamacare: Massive New Rules Revealed for 2013

Just last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that religious-affiliated, nonprofit institutions must provide insurance coverage for their employees for birth control under Obamacare. The decision ensured more legal challenges to the rule in the future.

In fact, Sebelius herself has been under fire for soliciting donations on behalf of Enroll America, the group made up of Obama campaign loyalists seeking to promote the healthcare law.

Related: NFL Contradicts Sebelius on Help to Promote Obamacare

The IRS, which is charged with implementing Obamacare, remains under fire for widespread mismanagement and for the targeting of tea party, conservative, and religious groups in evaluating their applications for tax-exempt status.

And the American Action Forum, a Washington advocacy group, said Obamacare had so far cost a total of $30.8 billion and 111.4 million hours for completing paperwork alone.

The group said 55,742 employees — working 2,000 hours per year — would be needed to process all the red tape associated with Obamacare.

While the employer mandate was delayed with Tuesday's announcement, the individual mandate — which requires individuals to obtain health insurance — presumably remains on schedule for 2014.

The individual mandate was challenged — and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the healthcare law was constitutional since the penalty would be collected by the IRS and amounted to a tax.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration also still plans to open up a new marketplace for government-regulated insurance plans on Oct. 1, to take effect on Jan. 1. And a sprawling set of subsidies would also remain in place.

The delay of the employer mandate, though, raises questions about whether more elements of the law might be delayed in the coming months.

Even though Tuesday's announcement came at the beginning of the Fourth of July week when Congress was on vacation, GOP legislators and conservative groups responded strongly to the decision.

"Obamacare's expense is killing jobs and is too great for businesses to handle," said Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is a physician in Louisiana. "This delay in implementing the employer mandate acknowledges this while encouraging employers to drop insurance coverage for their employees. Taxpayers will pay more and deficits will increase.

"We must replace Obamacare with patient-centered reforms that expand healthcare access without destroying jobs," Cassidy said.

Another physician, Georgia Rep. Tom Price, called Obamacare "too overreaching, too intrusive, too unworkable and too destructive to the American people.

"If they can't manage to enforce their own law after three years of preparation, what does this say about their ability to actually deliver health care?" Price asked.

"The employer mandate will destroy jobs, regardless of when it's implemented," said Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. "If anything, this decision exacerbates the confusion and uncertainty employers face.

"Jobs are already being lost and workers' hours slashed because of the president's healthcare law," Kline added. "No amount of bureaucratic tinkering can ease the pain Obamacare is inflicting on our nation's workplaces.

"America's workers, families, and job-creators deserve permanent relief from Obamacare — not a one-year reprieve."

And Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, told Newsmax: "It is increasingly obvious that the Obama administration is nowhere near ready to deal with the countless negative consequences their own law creates.

"The delay amounts to an admission that forcing small businesses to comply with more onerous regulations only hurts jobs and slows the economy."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


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