The White House this week announced another delay to the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, sparking angry accusations from Republicans that President Obama was unilaterally and illegally rewriting his signature health-care law. The delay gives medium-size businesses with 50 to 99 workers until 2016 to provide their employees with health coverage or pay a penalty of more than $2,000 per employee. Just a few months ago, the administration moved that deadline back from 2014 to 2015. Under the new rules, companies with 100 workers or more will still have to meet their 2015 deadline, but for one year will have a softer coverage target of 70 percent of employees, rather than the 95 percent stipulated under Obamacare. President Obama said the delay will give smaller companies that are making a good-faith effort to conform with the law more time to adjust. “Our goal here is not to punish folks,” Obama said.
Republicans accused Obama of violating the Constitution and of unfairly favoring businesses over individuals, who still face penalties if they don’t have health insurance by March 31. “Once again the president is giving a break to corporations while individuals and families are still stuck under the mandates of his health-care law,” said House Speaker John Boehner. “And, once again, the president is rewriting law on a whim.”
What the editorials said
“Another day, another lawless exemption,” said The Wall Street Journal. The employer mandate was supposed to be “central to Obamacare’s claim of universal coverage.” When businesses protested, saying it would force them to cut back on hiring and to shift workers to part-time roles, “liberals insisted such arguments were false, if not beneath contempt.” Now the White House has decided to listen to businesses—out of fear of a politically damaging backlash before this year’s midterm elections. “The employer mandate move is merely the latest in a long list of unilateral changes Obama has made,” said the Washington Examiner.It’s now abundantly clear that Obamacare is not actually a law, but “really just whatever Obama makes of it.”
The Republican reaction to the delay was “predictably over-the-top,” said The Washington Post. Studies show that the employer mandate isn’t even key to insuring more people: Medium-size businesses of 50 to 99 employees constitute just 7 percent of the private workforce, and 91 percent of businesses with between 50 and 199 workers already offered their employees insurance coverage in 2013 anyway. Still, the fact that Republicans won’t cooperate in fixing the law does not give the president authority to keep altering the original legislation. “The president should implement the law.”
What the columnists said
“The motivation for this latest delay is transparently political,” said Jonathan Tobin in CommentaryMagazine.com. By once again delaying the painful demands of this “unwieldy and gargantuan edifice,” Obama hopes to save some “faltering red-state incumbents” facing re-election in November from defeat. But no amount of lawless “royalism” on Obama’s part could make this law work, said John Podhoretz in the New York Post. “The administration had almost four years to get its ducks in a row.” Yet Obama still spent the past six months rewriting the law for both political and practical reasons. Face it, liberals, because it’s now obvious to everyone: “This law is a lemon.”
“Republicans have done everything they can think of” to destroy Obamacare, said Sam Baker in NationalJournal.com. But the White House is the one consistently doing the real damage. With each delay, Obama plays into the Republican narrative that the law is too complex and unwieldy. But despite these “self-inflicted wounds,” the real story is that Obamacare is moving forward. Hundreds of thousands of people continue to sign up on the exchanges, insurance premiums are lower than expected, “and the law’s basic survival is assured.”
Still, Democrats may come to regret “Obama’s accelerating domestic imperialism,” said Charles C.W. Cooke in NationalReview.com. While they’re currently cheering this president’s pick-and-choose method of implementing federal law, they’ll be horrified when “the shoe is on the other foot.” Someday, there will be another Republican president, and thanks to Obama’s precedent, he, too, will be able to ignore or amend laws on personal whim.