It should come as no surprise to anyone that the White House has chosen -- for the 13th time in a year -- to make changes to the Affordable Care Act delaying its full implementation. The law is a mess -- passed by Democrats, most of whom hadn't bothered to read the legislation, without a single Republican vote. Nonetheless, the latest changes announced this week should embarrass even the most sycophantic Obamacare enthusiast.
The act was sold on the promise that the estimated 40 million Americans who were without health insurance would finally be covered. The law forces employers with 50 or more workers to offer health care plans to all of their employees -- and insists that those plans make no exceptions based on pre-existing conditions and cover everything from birth control to substance abuse treatment.
But now, it turns out that many employers won't have to offer health care anytime soon, at least not to all of their employees. By White House fiat this week, small businesses -- those that employ 50 to 99 workers -- received a one-year reprieve, to January 2016, from offering coverage to their employees. About eight million American workers will be affected by this change. And this, of course, comes after the White House gave a similar one-year reprieve last July to companies employing 100 or more people. The White House now says those companies can satisfy the requirement to provide insurance so long as 70 percent of their employees have access to a plan by January 2015.
The president defended his administration's decision by claiming, "This was an example of, administratively, us making sure that we're smoothing out this transition, giving people the opportunities to get right with the law, but recognizing that there are going to be circumstances in which people are trying to do the right thing and it may take a little bit of time." Right.
But individuals -- who are required by law to buy insurance -- have been given no such leeway. Their deadline remains March 31 if they hope to avoid tax penalties for 2014.
So how many Americans who didn't have coverage before the law went into effect now have "affordable health care," as the act requires? Who knows? Certainly not anyone who's willing or able to provide reliable numbers.
The administration released numbers this week touting the 3.3 million Americans who have enrolled in the federal and state health care exchanges. But some percentage of these enrollees -- the administration doesn't seem interested in finding out the exact number -- are people who had insurance before and either lost their insurance because of the act or chose to switch plans to qualify for federal subsidies.
Has there ever been a sweeping federal law passed whose authors chose to remain so willfully ignorant of its consequences? But the Democrats who voted for the bill choose to stick their heads in the sand and hope voters won't notice. And they do so even though it requires ceding their legislative authority to an executive branch that seems to believe it has the power to rewrite the law as it chooses.
It's hard to know whether Democrats will pay for the abrogation of their duties at the polls in November. It's bad enough that partisan gerrymandering has left most -- a whopping 400 -- districts so uncompetitive that challengers from the opposing party stand little chance of winning. What's worse is that many voters don't know or don't care that only Congress, not the president, has the power to change a law.
Maybe Republicans will be successful in persuading voters that the president has misled the American people and that his minions in Congress should pay the consequences. But even if the GOP takes control of the Senate and expands its majority in the House, there is no chance of repealing the Affordable Care Act or even amending it in any significant way. President Obama will simply veto any bill Congress passes that changes his signature accomplishment. Barring a Supreme Court challenge that strikes down the law, we're stuck with Obamacare until 2017 at the earliest.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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