It’s been a bad week for Obamacare. Incredibly, the White House has had to grant yet another delay in the employer mandate. This time, employers with between 50 to 99 employees who don’t already offer health insurance to their employees have until 2016 to comply with the shifting Obamacare requirements. This latest delay represents another political calculation by the White House. They are counting on the fact that the criticism they will face now for bungling incompetence and disregarding their own law is less than the criticism they would receive for damaging American business closer to the elections.
And the fine print of the latest announcement from the Administration is worse than the terrible headlines. This rule includes a provision that says you have to have the right motives for having a certain number of employees to be in compliance with Obamacare. Bear with me, that’s right: You must certify to the IRS – under the threat of perjury – that the reasons for your employee head count have nothing to do with your opposition to or avoidance of Obamacare. This president doesn’t just selectively enforce the law as he sees fit; now he is actually inventing new crimes. It’s jaw-dropping that if you fall below 100 employees, the burden will be on you to prove that you meant no disrespect to Obamacare. I can’t wait to see the video of the first Democrat who tries to defend this new threat of prosecution within Obamacare. In fact, look for the White House to fix this and somehow drop this provision altogether. It’s completely indefensible.
No one who has even a basic understanding of economics should be surprised by the fact that Obamacare may impact hiring in the private sector, but now, if businesses take Obamacare into account when making their hiring decisions, they may be guilty of a crime or a misdemeanor. The mind positively boggles. I hope that somehow, there has been some kind of misunderstanding in reporting this issue, and if there hasn’t, I should hope that Ed Rogers is right when he says that this particular provision may be dropped. But what is amazing/appalling/jaw-dropping is that if the story is true, the provision found its way into health care regulations in the first place, which means that someone in the White House–with the blessing of the president of the United States–thought that it would be a good idea to make businesses swear up and down that their hiring decisions had nothing whatsoever to do with the economic realities imposed by the implementation of Obamacare, which is sort of like asking businesses to either shoot themselves in the foot, or face the threat of fines or prosecution. How precisely is anyone supposed to take this brand of “leadership” seriously?
There is some good news to report. I must say that I do like the fact that “a Political Action Committee associated with Nancy ‘we’re going to run on Obamacare’ Pelosi [is] slamming the White House for ‘the disastrous healthcare website’ and boasting — without any time qualification, it should be said — that its man ‘voted to let you keep your existing health plan.'” Will someone ask the would-be speaker of the House of Representatives about the wide gulf between her rhetoric and the activities of her own political action committee?
Sam Baker properly points out that the president has been the worst enemy imaginable to his own signature legislation:
Republicans have done everything they can think of to strike down Obamacare, but they’ve still only managed to come in second place. For all the House votes to repeal, defund, or weaken Obamacare, some of the most significant setbacks for the law have come from the administration itself.
Monday’s delay in the law’s employer mandate was just the latest in a series of self-inflicted wounds, just like the HealthCare.gov launch and delays in several programs that simply weren’t ready for prime time.
To be clear, the self-inflicted wounds haven’t been fatal. Obamacare is moving forward—and the doomsayers’ prophecies have fallen flat: People are signing up, premiums are lower than expected, and the law’s basic survival is assured. It gets stronger every month as more people pour into new insurance marketplaces in each state.
But the law does have a specific vision of the future of health insurance. And to hit that vision, it relies on a delicate balance of popular carrots—think coverage for those with preexisting conditions—and unpopular sticks, such as the ever-controversial individual mandate. And the administration keeps chipping away at unpopular parts—sometimes directly, and sometimes by handing Republicans a political weapon.
Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.
UPDATE: A very good analysis by Jonathan Adler on why the White House–announced delay in the employer mandate is illegal absent legislation from Congress. Key passage (which is a statement of the obvious, but apparently, the obvious does need to be pointed out for this administration):
The Obama Administration is not the first to take liberties with the laws it is charged with executing, and it will not be the last. Yet the increasing brazenness with which the Administration is disregarding inconvenient or ill-conceived portions of its signature legislative achievement lowers the bar to a disturbing degree. Even where ad hoc administrative revisions seem justified to ease the law’s implementation, such moves are illegal if not authorized by Congress. The Executive Branch is supposed to faithfully execute the laws Congress enacts, not rewrite them.