ObamaCare on Hold

ObamaCare on Hold

By Jack Kelly - July 7, 2013

The Obama administration plans to delay for a year implementation of the "employer mandate" provision of Obamacare. It requires companies with 50 or more full-time employees to provide them with health insurance or pay a fine of $2,000 per worker.

Obamacare was supposed to go fully into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, and some experts think delaying implementation of the employer mandate violates the law.

"The IRS not enforcing Section 1513 is like a policeman who patrols a stretch of road who says for the next year, he won't issue any speeding tickets," wrote columnist Ken Klukowski, who also is a law professor involved in litigation to overturn Obamacare. "He has no authority to suspend the law, but if he chooses to violate his duty by failing to enforce the law, then to all the motorists on the road it's as if the law does not exist."

Though employers will get a break, the individual mandate, which requires Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, goes into effect in January.

One reason the employer mandate is being delayed to give Democrats "breathing room" by concealing until after the midterm elections the damage it will do to business bottom lines (and therefore job creation), a source in the Treasury Department told the Daily Mail, a British newspaper.

Among employers most heavily impacted by Obamacare are local governments.

"School administrators here say they are alarmed and confounded by the looming new costs they face with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act," wrote Mike Shields of the Kaiser Health Institute News Service, reporting from Phillipsburg, Kan., last month.

But the law applies only to organizations which have 50 or more employees who work 30 or more hours per week. So employers have an incentive to keep the number of workers they hire below 50, or to cut their hours.

In response to Obamacare, 41 percent of small business owners surveyed by Gallup in a poll in June said they'd frozen hiring, 18 percent said they'd reduced the hours their employees work, 19 percent said they'd let some people go.

"We were startled because we know that employers were concerned about the Affordable Care Act and the effects it would have on their business, but we didn't realize the extent they were concerned, or that the businesses were being proactive to make sure the effects of the ACA actually were minimized," said Steven Friedman, a lawyer for the firm which commissioned the poll, on CNBC.

Politico reported June 4 that Democrats nevertheless plan to "embrace" Obamacare in the midterm campaigns.

"In 2014, Democrats can talk about the positives, position themselves as consumer advocates to make it work and go on offense against Republicans," reporter Alex Isenstadt said he was told by a "senior Democratic official."

Polls last month which indicate Obamacare is more unpopular than ever -- 58 percent of respondents in a Fox News poll June 26 said they want some or all of the law repealed -- may have forced that strategy to change.

"The more people learn about Obamacare, the more frightened they become," wrote GOP consultant Ed Rogers in The Washington Post's Post Partisan blog. So "smart Democrats are beginning to get frantic about the need to suppress the confusion and hide the cost of Obamacare."

There could be many more still to be frightened. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll in April indicated 42 percent of Americans were unaware at the time that Obamacare was about to go into effect -- including half of young adults (ages 18 to 29), who voted heavily for Mr. Obama.

They're in for a nasty surprise. Come January, the young and healthy who don't have health insurance will be required to buy it, and most who have it will have to pay more for it.

The young are also most affected by the cutbacks in jobs and hours Obamacare is forcing, which is partly why Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, thinks it was "deviously brilliant" to delay the employer mandate. Still, CBS News described it as a "major setback" for the president.

"It sort of contributes to the feeling that the Affordable Care Act is a jalopy they're trying to roll out of the driveway here," said CBS political director John Dickerson.

Any political relief that the delay provides Democrats will be temporary, yawned Allahpundit at "So now, instead of Obama's signature legislation being a drag on Democrats next year, it'll be a drag on them in 2016 instead."

And Democrats should consider the precedent. If Mr. Obama can choose not to enforce a key provision of the law, what's to prevent a Republican president from not enforcing any of Obamacare's provisions ever?

Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio.

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