For a president who is often accused of being arbitrary, Barack Obama is being all too accommodating when it comes to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
That surprise announcement Tuesday that the administration was delaying the employer mandate for a year. ... I really wish they wouldn’t have done that. My Twitter feed lit up immediately, with every Republican I follow announcing that “Obamacare is imploding!” Or something to that effect.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Obamacare is not imploding. It’s just a really hard, complex law to put into effect, made more difficult by the determination of opponents in states and in Washington to impede its rollout so that they can then say, ‘Look, Obamacare is a failure.’
Gripes about the Affordable Care Act keep shifting, and recently the spotlight had turned to businesses which will be affected by the mandate that compels them to either offer health insurance policies to employees or pay a fine.
As a practical matter, the mandate affects relatively few employers. Most businesses with 50 or more full-time employees already offer insurance policies. But lots of employers were complaining about the reporting process, and some were threatening to bump employees down to part-time in order to get around the mandate. So, for reasons that were surely both political and practical, the administration gave everyone a year’s reprieve.
As for the rest of the law, it is moving along. Here’s Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and policy Priorities in Washington, writing for the New York Times’
“How will this affect coverage? Hard to see it having much impact at all. The important coverage aspects of the Affordable Care Act — the Medicaid expansion and the state health care exchanges — are still scheduled to be up and running by Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year (of course, not every state has accepted the Medicaid part). And the requirement to have health insurance or pay a penalty – the individual mandate – will still take effect in 2014.”
Still. Obama waffled earlier this year when he said his budget wouldn’t reduce federal disproportionate share payments to hospitals in states that hadn’t complied with the optional Medicaid expansion provision of the law. In states like Missouri, that gave opponents of expansion much too much breathing room.
The Department of Health and Human Services earlier this year delayed implementation of a provision in the law that would have expanded the choice of coverage plans for employees of small businesses. The business lobby had complained about that one, too.
The Affordable Care Act is transforming legislation that will make life easier and healthier for millions of Americans. But it won’t be rolled out without some pain. It would help if Congress could work cooperatively on ironing out some of the wrinkles. But that’s hard to do when one party is still bent on repealing the entire deal. That being the case, I wish Obama would forge ahead and get the pieces in place.