WASHINGTON - The White House decision to delay the implementation of Obamacare's business mandate for one year sent shock waves through political circles here.
The Obama administration tried to cloak its decision in soothing rhetoric about giving small businesses more time to provide health insurance benefits for employees who work more than 30 hours a week that was set to begin next January.
"We believe we need to give employers more time to comply with the new rules," Obama's senior White House political fixer Valerie Jarrett wrote in her blog on Tuesday night. "This allows employers time to ...make any necessary adaptations to their health benefits while staying the course toward making health coverage more affordable and accessible for their workers."
Baloney. The West Wing's sudden decision has midterm congressional election politics and a weak, job-starved, economy written all over it. Obama's top political advisers are getting hit by rising complaints from Democrats who fear that the mandate is a ticking time bomb that will hurt the party's chances in the 2014 elections, especially in close Senate races where Obamacare is very unpopular.
That's when the Obamacare law was scheduled to force businesses with a workforce of 50 or more people to provide health insurance for their employees or else get slapped with a $2,000 fine for each worker.
Businesses who operate on the margin, and have been struggling to survive in the weak Obama economy, have been objecting to the mandate provision, warning that it will mean laying off workers or using more part-timers who work fewer hours to evade the mandate's 30 hour thresh-hold.
"Employers are going to continue to restructure their businesses to avoid pulling the 50-employer trigger. And it isn't reporting requirements that are the primary concern of employers -- it's the cost of the Obamacare health insurance and fines," says veteran health care analyst Grace-Marie Turner.
While the White House sought to portray the one year delay as a careful policy decision to give small businesses more time to understand the new law's complex rules and regulations, political observers weren't fooled.
By delaying the mandate until January, 2015, "the Obama administration heads off the unseemly spectacle of companies vowing to cut jobs or workers' hours to avoid the costly mandate," writes Sarah Kliff in Wednesday's Washington Post.