Employers with fewer than 100 workers won’t have to provide health insurance until 2016 under Obamacare, as the administration said it would again delay a key requirement of the health law. Larger firms have to cover at least 70 percent of the workforce starting next year, the Internal Revenue Service said in a rule issued today. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act envisioned as a cornerstone of its expansion of U.S. insurance coverage that employers with 50 or more workers would be required to provide health benefits to their employees. Under pressure from business groups, the Obama administration has weakened that requirement since July, first by delaying enforcement of the mandate until 2015. Many firms will have even more time under the regulation issued today…The rule provides employers far more flexibility than allowed by the language of the health law, which levies fines of as much as $3,000 per worker against firms that don’t comply with the requirement.
The language of the law explicitly requires all businesses with more than 50 workers to provide employees with health coverage by January 1st of this year. Obama's previous delay pushed that date back to 2015. Now -- with a wrenching election cycle on the horizon, and on the heels of a brutal CBO report about the law's impact on the US workforce -- the administration has issued more major changes by pure fiat. The law's full implementation date has been shoved back by another full year, the relevant worker threshold has been unilaterally doubled, and larger businesses have also received a special partial exemption. Let there be no mistake: The Obama administration is simply re-writing Obamacare on the fly, with no regard for the plain text of the statute. This is lawless behavior, as was the first big delay. The Obama Precedent is now firmly set. Future presidents may delay, postpone, or alter any portion of the this law that they find unworkable. Or politically inconvenient. Or...anything at all, really. Reactions:
It's gone far beyond the "businesses need to prepare accordingly" phase. Now in the political butt-covering stage.— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) February 10, 2014
The latest unexpected ACA delay I think fits into the argument in this piece from last week. http://t.co/ss3w8cg3Tn— John Dickerson (@johndickerson) February 10, 2014
Another day, another delay. This should be ObamaCare's new logo: pic.twitter.com/4HGd4zXkMk— Eric Cantor (@EricCantor) February 10, 2014
To Dickerson's point, unlawful Obamacare delays are hardly "unexpected;" this has become an established pattern of behavior. But he's right to highlight the chaotic state of flux that has characterized Obamacare's roll-out. It has fostered an environment of political upheaval, legal uncertainty, and policy caprice. That last item was a decisive factor in spurring Moody's to downgrade the entire healthcare industry's credit outlook last month. It looks like even the DNC was caught off guard by the timing of this announcement, which is typically reserved for Friday afternoons. This is an amusing PR black eye:
The Democratic Party declared that “Obamacare is working” on Monday minutes after the White House announced that it would delay the law’s individual mandate for millions of businesses. The White House said on Monday that businesses with fewer than 100 employees will not be forced to provide health insurance to those employees until 2016, as the law requires. Minutes later, the Democratic National Committee emailed supporters extolling the law’s successes.
The administration has now twice bestowed major Obamacare delays on businesses (a tacit acknowledgement that the law's effects are harmful to the job market and economic growth). At what point do average families and individuals get the same treatment? Millions are projected to pay the mandate tax in 2014 and beyond, most of whom are declining to obtain coverage because it costs too much. This administration has granted "hardship waivers" to some individuals who've lost their coverage because of Obamacare and can't afford the new rates. Why not extend the same fair deal to all Americans? The individual mandate tax is deeply unpopular; a massive majority of Americans support its delay. Please, Democrats, explain why middle class families must comply with this ever-changing law, while businesses get special exemptions and extensions. Also, please explain why you were willing to shut down the government when Republicans tried to delay this law through the democratic process -- yet this unilateral decree is just fine. They've struggled to articulate a legal justification for these Obamacare power-grabs in the recent past. Remember, the individual mandate was upheld as a tax. Can presidents just rewrite tax laws now? Again, think of the precedent being set here.
UPDATE - Allahpundit echoes a point I made last July: The president's lawlessness on Obamacare is reason enough for the GOP to refuse to trust his commitment to the law on any potential immigration reform package they may have in mind. This crew doesn't enforce parts of laws that they don't like. Why would immigration be any different?
UPDATE II - The timing of this joke is rather...inopportune for the White House:
Unfortunate Obama joke at Monticello, minutes after mandate delay: pic.twitter.com/IIAUecT2ba— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) February 10, 2014
UPDATE III - Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell weighs in: "The White House seems to have a new exemption from its failed law for a different group every month. It’s time to extend that exemption to families and individuals—not just businesses. The real answer is to repeal Obamacare and replace it with reforms that lower costs and that Americans support.”
UPDATE IV - CNN calls the delay political in nature and an admission of Obamacare's endless problems: