Republicans Hail Employer Mandate Delay as Defeat for Obama

BY Christina Bellantoni  July 3, 2013 at 8:55 AM EDT


A doctor examines a patient at the Doris Ison Health Center in Miami, Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Morning Line

President Barack Obama’s administration will delay the enforcement of the employer mandate at the heart of his 2010 health care law, pushing a requirement that businesses be required to provide employees insurance to 2015.

The holiday-week announcement handed Republicans what they consider a political victory just as efforts to enroll Americans in the long-awaited exchanges ramp up. The one-year delay, of course, means businesses won’t be forced to implement a big change until after the 2014 midterm elections.

The forthcoming regulatory shift was first reported by Bloomberg News late Tuesday. Mike Dorning and Alex Wayne wrote that the move “addresses vehement complaints from employer groups about the administrative burden of reporting requirements, though it may also affect coverage provided to some workers.”

Under the law, which remains a political flashpoint for members of Congress, businesses with more than 50 employees are required to either provide health insurance or pay a penalty ($2,000 per employee). But business groups have been complaining about burdensome reporting requirements.

The Washington Post’s Zachary A. Goldfarb and Sandhya Somashekhar called it “a fresh setback for President Obama’s landmark health-care overhaul as it enters a critical phase.”

The Post story goes into great detail about the “bumpy” road the health care law has faced, even since the Supreme Court upheld it as constitutional last summer.

In a blog post on the White House website, presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett said that the exchanges will open as planned this fall.

We are on target to open the Health Insurance Marketplace on October 1 where small businesses and ordinary Americans will be able to go to one place to learn about their coverage options and make side-by-side comparisons of each plan’s price and benefits before they make their decision.

She stressed that the delay was in response to concern from businesses that let the administration know they “need the time to get this right.”

“As we implement this law, we have and will continue to make changes as needed,” she wrote. “We are listening.” From the blog post:

So we plan to re-vamp and simplify the reporting process. Some of this detailed reporting may be unnecessary for businesses that more than meet the minimum standards in the law. We will convene employers, insurers, and experts to propose a smarter system and, in the interim, suspend reporting for 2014.

Second, we are giving businesses more time to comply. As we make these changes, we believe we need to give employers more time to comply with the new rules. Since employer responsibility payments can only be assessed based on this new reporting, payments won’t be collected for 2014. This allows employers the time to test the new reporting systems and make any necessary adaptations to their health benefits while staying the course toward making health coverage more affordable and accessible for their workers.

Mary Agnes Carey and our partners at Kaiser Health News told the NewsHour that it is “unclear what effect the announcement will have on the health law’s goal of providing coverage to millions of American who do not now have it.”

Although many large employers do provide insurance, the benefits packages vary widely. Workers whose employers do not offer coverage, and now have an additional year to do so, will be forced to go to the exchanges to get coverage.

Business groups hailed the news.

Congress is on recess, but GOP leaders didn’t hesitate to pounce on the announcement as a victory.

“This announcement means even the Obama administration knows the ‘train wreck’ will only get worse,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “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.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, complained that the administration was not also giving individuals or families a one-year extension from coverage requirements, which he said “shows how deeply flawed the President’s signature domestic policy achievement is.”

Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had a different spin.

“Flexibility is a good thing,” he said in a statement. “Both the administration and Senate Democrats have shown – and continue to show – a willingness to be flexible and work with all interested parties to make sure that implementation of the Affordable Care Act is as beneficial as possible to all involved. It is better to do this right than fast.”

Ezra Klein, who was against the mandate when it was included the legislation, pointed out it “affects relatively few employers,” or just four percent of firms in the United States. That translates to “around one percent of American workers,” he wrote in the Washington Post.

The NewsHour will have more analysis of the change on Wednesday’s program.

With Congress out of town and the president headed to Camp David, the Morning Line will be taking a brief holiday of our own. We’ll return to publishing on Monday. In the meantime, here are some animal pictures.

LINE ITEMS

  • Texas lawmakers advanced a controversial abortion measure after nearly 2,000 witnesses showed up to testify on the bill.
  • And Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., agreed to sponsor a similar 20-week abortion ban in the Senate.
  • Despite Texas Democrat Wendy Davis’ famous filibuster, a new survey by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling found that she trailed Republican Gov. Rick Perry in a hypothetical match-up.
  • Politico reports that Texas Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela “has resigned from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in an apparent protest over the coalition’s tacit embrace of the Senate’s immigration bill,” fretting over the increase in border security that was central to the measure’s passage.
  • Gov. Bob McDonnell and his family went to the Final Four on a political donor’s dime, the Virginian-Pilot reports.
  • Team Mitch McConnell launched their first attack “ad” against his Kentucky Senate rival Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes with an auto-tuned soundtrack to “What Rhymes with Alison Lundergan Grimes?” (Yes, it’s odd.)
  • The new book from Dan Balz about the 2012 campaign details just how close Chris Christie came to being chosen as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential nominee, Politico reports. And the Washington Post has more from the book that suggests Romney was hesitant about a presidential bid.
  • New York City mayor and gun control advocate Michael Bloomberg is hosting a fundraiser for West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. Manchin, who co-authored the unsuccessful measure to expand background checks, once had NRA backing but is now under criticism from the powerful organization.
  • “A second aide to Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., resigned last week as part of an ongoing election fraud investigation that continues to fester in the freshman’s office,” Roll Call’s Abby Livingston writes.
  • BBC News Magazine looks at how Irish immigration and Ireland’s lobbyists may have sway in Congress’ immigration reform talks.
  • As National Journal’s Niraj Chokshi reports, some of those sequester doomsday predictions may finally be hitting: 680,000 civilian Defense Department employees begin furloughs next week, and already, the sequester has taken more than a $100 bite out of recipients’ weekly federal unemployment benefits in some states.
  • From flowers to rainy highways, House Republicans are engaging in a new photo project.
  • Texas GOP Rep. Steve Stockman’s staff went to a firing range.
  • The Washington Post’s Emily Heil notes the American flag that will fly over the Capitol building on the Fourth of July is made of hemp.
  • For the long holiday, just go read this terrific profile of Jason Everman, the one-time Nirvana guitarist and Soundgarden bassist turned Army Ranger.
  • Rapper Lil B explains to Rolling Stone why he tweeted in support of Davis’ filibuster in Texas.

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

  • It’s true. The NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown sat down with Trey Anastasio from Phish(!) to learn how he’s so much more than a folk guitarist with a loyal following. Watch:

Senior Broadcast Producer Mike Melia, who made the magic happen, posted the extended interview here. And Phish fans shared their stories and photos for an in-depth multimedia project.

  • Kwame Holman sees Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California as one of Congress’ most prominent advocates on intelligence issues and government surveillance concerns.
  • Gwen interviewed Chris Fomunyoh of the National Democratic Institute, Emira Woods of the Institute for Policy Studies and Mwangi Kimenyi of the Africa Growth Initiative about the substance and symbolism of the president’s trip to Africa.
  • Judy Woodruff spoke with experts about the problems that led to the deadly fire conditions in Arizona.
  • Don’t fret about whether you are being fair to employers when weighing job offers; treat the decision as rationally as the business decision employers make when they hire, advises headhunter Nick Corcodilos.

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Terence Burlij, Simone Pathe and desk assistant Mallory Sofastaii contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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