In a move best described as calculatingly cynical, a Treasury Department official who wished to remain anonymous confirmed to the Daily Mail’s online newspaper that the Obama administration will not enforce the employer mandate in the healthcare bill until 2015. The mandate was supposed to go into effect next year, but the official notes a “combination of politics and economic realities in the marketplace” is responsible for the delay. The prospect of Democrats being forced to defend ObamaCare during the 2014 mid-term election campaign is more like it.
The Treasury official was confirming a blog written by Mark J. Mazur on the department’s website, where he cays that administration officials “have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively. We recognize that the vast majority of businesses that will need to do this reporting already provide health insurance to their workers, and we want to make sure it is easy for others to do so. We have listened to your feedback. And we are taking action.”
The employer mandate requires companies who employ 50 or more workers to provide those workers with health insurance or face a fine of up to $3000 per employee. It also imposes extensive reporting requirements, including one where businesses must inform the government about the individual months each employee and any dependents are covered. According to a Business Roundtable statement issued a year ago, the reporting requirements would necessitate “substantial changes in administrative procedures and reprogramming of recordkeeping systems.”
A senior administration official addressed that concern. “We have been in a dialogue with businesses and we think we can simplify the new reporting–we want to give businesses who want to provide health insurance the time to get this right,” the official said. “Just like our effort to turn the 21-page application for health insurance into a three-page application, we are working hard to adapt and to be flexible in employer and insurer reporting as we implement the law.”
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a Republican and former Congressional Budget Office (CBO) director explained the real reason for the administration’s newfound flexibility. “The policy implications are fairly straightforward. Essentially for calendar 2014 the act of dropping coverage and dumping employees into the exchanges is on sale,” he writes. “Drop and dump, but no penalty. Accelerating the rush of employers to the exits is bad news for taxpayers. At a minimum, the federal revenue from fines is gone. More realistically, the costs of already-bloated insurance subsidies will escalate and the red ink will rise.”
He then clarifies the politics. “Democrats no longer face the immediate specter of running against the fallout from a heavy regulatory imposition on employers across the land. Explaining away the mandate was going to be a big political lift; having the White House airbrush it from the landscape is way better,” he contends.
It is that so-called airbrushing that ought to rankle the American public. It illuminates one of the fundamental pillars of progressivism, namely the belief that the average American voter is not smart enough to see through the obvious subterfuge of delaying a law that even one of its Democratic architects, Max Baucus (D-MT), labeled a “train wreck.” That would be the same Max Baucus who announced he would retire rather than seek reelection in 2014.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) added an element of uncertainty to the mix. “It is unclear that (the president) has the authority to do this without Congress,” Issa said. “This is another in a string of extra legal actions taken by his Administration to mask the horrible impact his law will have on the economy and health care in the United States.”
Late yesterday, House Republicans decided to follow up on Issa’s statement. “House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders today wrote to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, requesting documents and information regarding the administration’s decision to delay full implementation of the health care law’s employer mandate for one year,” stated a press release from the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), has held a series of hearings on the president’s health care law and will examine the administration’s delay of the employer mandate in the coming weeks.”
This development is monumentally ironic. Congressional Republicans will seek the enforcement of a law they despise, even as Democrats and the Obama administration, who consider it one the singular triumphs of the big-government progressivism they adore, will fight tooth and nail to delay the inevitable.
Adding to the irony is the reality that the delay will add to the budget deficit in 2014. A CBO report reveals the government was expecting to collect as much as $5 billion in fines from businesses that failed to comply with the mandate. And since businesses now have another year to push their workers into the public exchanges that are part of the law, the cost of the insurance subsidies provided by those exchanges is likely to increase as well.
Yet it is the political machinations here that are important. Since the individual mandate remains in effect, those employees who would have received insurance through their employers will have to purchase health insurance, or face a fine beginning next year. When 2015 rolls around, many companies that may have been willing to pay their employees’ insurance may decide to pay the fine instead, since their employees will have already had their own insurance for a year. As more and more businesses opt for this solution, the entire concept of employer-sponsored insurance–which originated as a direct response to FDR’s government-mandated wage freezes–will begin to unravel.
Complicating that picture is the reality that only 17 states have opted to set up the exchanges, with the rest deciding to let the federal government do it. Those exchanges are supposed to be ready to go by Oct. 1 of this year, but many states will more than likely miss the deadline. As an increasing number of individuals who might have originally been covered by their employer being to flood into the exchanges, even more chaos will be created.
Fox News’ Chris Stirewalt explains why such chaos may be exactly what Democrats want. He notes that Democrats have already acknowledged that implementing ObamaCare is a “train wreck,” but they remain “determined to get as many passengers as possible aboard the doomed locomotive.” He then explains why:
Because it’s the only way to get what the Obama Democrats have wanted all along: A government-run system open to all Americans and the eventual demise of the employer-based insurance system that has been the norm since the end of World War II.
If the train wrecks with no one on board, there isn’t much incentive to couple up another locomotive. But, with the help of Hollywood celebrities, librarians, proselytizing school children and paid “navigators,” there will be enough millions of people aboard the Obamacare Express when it runs off the rails, that will forever be afforded passage.
In other words, much like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, once the entitlement genie is out of the bottle it stays out forever. And just like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, when the inevitable cost explosion occurs, the best Americans can hope for will be a “fix,” that will entail a combination of higher taxes and a reduced level of care.
Determining the exact reduction in the level of care will become the responsibility of unelected bureaucrats known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). Composed of 15 members who will each serve six-year terms, the IPAB’s job will be to determine the most effective allocation of health resources.
Anyone wondering how that might turn out need only go back as little as two weeks ago, when the family of a dying 10-year-old girl in need of a lung transplant had to get a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order, directing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to cease enforcing a policy that prevents children under age 12 from getting a lung transplant from an adult donor.
The girl is still alive. If it were up to Sebelius, who has the power to waive the rule and refused to do so based on the child’s “statistical probability” of surviving, Sarah Murnaghan would be dead.
Take such “statistical probability,” add a large dollop of bureaucratically-decided “cost control” and apply it to 300 million Americans on ObamaCare, or the government-run healthcare Democrats would like to see it become, and one can begin to see the truly monstrous nature of the collectivist impulse that drives progressives. The one where individual health needs are denied if they don’t serve the “greater good” of society as a whole. The one that allows for the seamless transition in which government dictates what you must eat, and how you must behave, in order to keep healthcare costs down. The one where every patient is no longer a living, breathing human being, but simply a statistic.
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