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July 3, 2013

Delaying the Employer Health Mandate: Easy on the Champagne

By

America’s business leaders — those with 50 or more employees — may be excused for breaking out the champagne and raising a celebratory glass of cheer. Please, just one toast will do, thank you very much.

The Obama administration’s announcement that it will delay the January 1, 2014, imposition of its employer health mandate and tax penalty (up to $3,000 per worker) is temporary good news, just like any reprieve.

Valerie Jarrett, senior White House adviser, says the delay would “reduce red tape” and give employers a chance to “adjust” to their new responsibilities to comply with Washington. In the wake of issuing more than 20,000 pages of rules, regulations, and guidelines in the name of Obamacare, this is classic “boob bait.” Like the previous delays of the HHS mandate on institutions to fund abortifacients, sterilization, and contraception, nothing has really changed. The employer mandate — and all of the other coercive paraphernalia that makes up the thing called Obamacare — is the law of the land. Period.

Last night’s decision reveals two things.

First, facing the January 1, 2014, deadline, they see disaster in imposing the employer mandate in an election year. The White House is not politically stupid. While government actuaries predicted a modest dumping of workers out of job-based coverage, independent analysts predicted major disruptions in employer-based coverage. That, by the way, may happen anyway. If the taxpayers must subsidize health costs for millions in the exchanges in 2014, what’s to stop employers from offloading their workers and their costs?

Second, Obama’s team knows they need more time to get their heavy regulatory machinery greased and ready to carry out their coercive mission. Obviously, more than three years of central planning is not enough time.

The administration’s action raises more questions than it answers. If they delay the employer mandate for one year, then why not delay the even more unpopular individual mandate? Maybe that’s next. If they delay the individual mandate, won’t they also have to delay insurance rules (like community rating) that could actually increase the numbers of uninsured and set off instability in the insurance exchanges? Maybe so. Because the Obamacare benefit mandates on insurance companies go into effect in 2014, now what are the coverage options and legal liabilities of employers? And, by the way, since the date for the mandate is set for January 1, 2014, in statute, where does the regulatory authority to nullify that date come from? Yes, this is a mess.

Put the champagne back until this monster is fully repealed or at least defunded.

— Robert Moffit is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Policy Innovation.

First appeared in National Review Online

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