As Mandy Nagy previously noted here, the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare, will now be delayed until 2015.

Dan Balz of the Washington Post sums up the issue:

The surprise decision to delay the requirement that businesses offer health insurance to their employees or pay a penalty represents a significant symbolic setback for the Obama administration, one that focuses attention on a larger question: Can government effectively implement something as big and complex as the Affordable Care Act?

That question has been at the heart of the debate over the law from its outset, coloring the long and contentious discussions that preceded its congressional passage along partisan lines in 2010, and following it every step of the way as the administration has begun to put its pieces into place.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal, take the sensible, Republican side.

The employer mandate is central to ObamaCare’s claim of providing universal coverage. Companies with 50 or more “employee equivalents” must pay a $2,000 penalty per full-time employee if they don’t provide government-approved health insurance. The provision was supposed to start in January, and delaying it is like Ford saying its electric car is ready to go, except the electric battery doesn’t work.

But all of a sudden on Tuesday evening Mark Mazur—you know him as the deputy assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy—published a blog post canceling the insurance reporting rules and tax enforcement until 2015 as Washington began to evacuate for the long Independence Day weekend. Enjoy the holiday, mate. …

Mr. Mazur cited the “complexity of the requirements” as the reason for the delay. He isn’t talking about business confusion and uncertainty, as damaging as those are. This is probably an admission that Treasury’s information technology isn’t ready to process and cross-check paperwork across the 5.7 million businesses in America, especially the pass-through S-corps and partnerships that file under the individual tax code.

But of course, ObamaCare’s supporters say that it’s no big deal.

On the other hand the editors of the Washington Post torture logic to conclude that Delaying part of the Affordable Care Act is not a death knell. Well, no it’s not a death knell because the administration is hellbent on implementing it no matter how unwieldy, or unworkable ObamaCare is.

White House officials said that the administration had been hearing from businesses and wanted to simplify the rules before imposing reporting requirements and assessing penalties. Others weren’t so sanguine. “This is a clear acknowledgment that the law is unworkable,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declared.

Actually, it’s not. While the administration’s move could be part of a White House political strategy to avoid overheated attacks from Republicans during the 2014 election year, it is no policy disaster, and it certainly doesn’t indict the whole law. …

Some argue that the employer mandate doesn’t actually matter much, because there are still many reasons why firms will want to provide health-care benefits to their employees within the new system. If that’s the case, the employer mandate — or its temporary absence — won’t make much difference, though the government will lose a source of funding for individual insurance subsidies. …

The real test of the system will be in how the individual insurance marketplaces function in response to expected and unexpected forces in the health-care market. If they have real trouble, or if, when fully implemented, key elements of the system turn out to be economically onerous, then Republicans will have reason to call the law unworkable.

The problem isn’t the “overheated Republican attacks.” The problem is that given the problems in implementing ObamaCare, the attacks will be effective. The administration and Washington Post both know this. They’d prefer that Democrats not pay a political price for their reckless effort to control one sixth of the nation’s economy.

The absurdity of the Post’s position is clear. Maybe the employer mandate is not the most important element of ObamaCare, but it clearly is a significant portion of the mechanism designed to force everyone to get health care coverage. But if businesses (and the administration) were not ready to implement it by the time the law dictated, what does it say about the design of the bill? If this delay was not anticipated, how many other effects of the law weren’t anticipated? (For example, the sharp increases in medical insurance premiums.)

For the Washington Post to argue that the delay in implementing the employer mandate is “no policy disaster,” is akin to losing one’s arm and proclaiming that it’s just a flesh wound, as if this were a Monty Python skit.


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