Liberals and progressives have fended off relentless attacks from Republicans since President Barack Obama’s signature legislation was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court last year. One of the primary purposes of the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare,” is to make health care coverage affordable and accessible to more than 45 million uninsured Americans. But the White House announced in early July that it is delaying by one year the mandate requiring medium and large employers to provide access to “affordable” health coverage to its employees. The mandate, which will now take effect in January 2015 as opposed to 2014, calls for fines up to $3,000 per uninsured full-time employee for businesses who fail to comply.
Then on Wednesday the Republican controlled House of Representatives voted to delay for one year the individual mandate in a vote of 251-174 — virtually across party lines. This followed 38 previous failed attempts by the GOP to derail or outright overturn the Affordable Care Act. There is no chance the bill will pass the Democratic-led Senate.
What It All Means
The Affordable Care Act has been slowly implemented since the beginning of 2013. A total of 19 states and Washington D.C. have already created insurance exchange programs for consumers, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Consumers will be able to use T-mobile’s droid phones or laptop to compare premiums and decide which plan is best for them. All other states have until October 1 of this year to either set up an exchange or opt into the federal government exchange. A 2.3 percent medical device tax also started on January 1, as did a 0.9 percent Medicare tax increase on those earning more than $200,000 annually.
The one-year delay will postpone federal government oversight when consumers request subsidies because they cannot afford an employer-administered health program. The Washington Post suggests that this will lead to individuals who do not qualify for subsidies getting them anyway, similar to when Medicare Part D was initially rolled out. The White House conceded that the federal government does not yet have the manpower to conduct the oversight. States also have until 2015 to create systems which send electronic notices to consumers informing them of tax subsidies they qualify for.
Despite the fact Republicans would rather see the Affordable Care Act repealed in its entirety, an investigation is being launched into the legality of the delay in implementation. Phil Roe, R-Tenn, said the President is overstepping his authority by “conveniently” ignoring the law when it benefits him. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said this delay is just another “extra legal” act by the Administration.
A representative from the Treasury told Fox News that it has authority pursuant to IRS code to delay new laws if the transition will create market instability. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, and Chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee, set a hearing for July 10 to determine the legality of the delay.
Reform In Jeopardy?
The White House has made clear that the delay is to give businesses more time to adjust, but the 2014 midterm elections remain the pink elephant in the room. Some have speculated the delays were done so Democrats up for re-election will not have to answer questions about the law. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the delays the first steps in an impending train wreck. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, said the delays are a sign that President Obama is flexible to the needs of business owners. Former Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod said Obamacare will be the “proudest achievement” of the president when all is said and done.