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.