July 8, 2013

Our View: Obamacare delay a gift to critics of reform

The longer we go without full implementation, the harder it is to gauge the program's benefits.

The Affordable Care Act, known as "Obamacare" to friend and foe alike, is the perfect target to organize against.

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The Obama administration has put off for a year a requirement that businesses with fewer than 50 employees offer affordable health insurance.

It's big, it's complicated and few people know what's really in it.

While some popular elements of the law went into effect right away, like letting adult children stay on their parents' insurance until age 26, they have been overshadowed when critics warn of the pitfalls ahead.

Those critics were handed a favor last week, with the announcement that the Obama administration was putting off for one year the requirement that businesses with more than 50 employees offer affordable insurance or pay a penalty as high as $3,000 a worker.

This delay is bad for Obamacare for several reasons.

The delay will reduce the amount the government takes in to offset other costs. The administration had projected the collection of $10 billion in penalties.

Putting off the implementation for another year gives opponents the opportunity to attack the uncertainty of the health care reform program.

That could put pressure on the administration to delay the implementation of other aspects of the plan – such as the individual mandate – which are essential to the plan's success.

Perhaps worst of all, this delay adds to the perception that Obamacare is too big and too complex to ever work. For the people who want to see it fail, this delay is very good news.

That's unfortunate because for all its flaws, the Affordable Care Act is still the country's best bet to organize a more efficient and effective health care system.

The administration announced last week that it would not be ready to implement the employer mandate on Jan. 1, 2014, because businesses need more time to comply with labor-intensive reporting requirements.

Some claim the real reason is that the president wants to push the effective date to 2015, after the midterm elections.

That seems far-fetched, especially since putting off implementation gives the opponents something to run against. It would be much better for Democrats if more Americans were realizing the benefits of the reform.

The sooner the program is in place, the sooner we will know what works and what needs improvement.

The administration should resist extending any more deadlines that will further sap confidence in the program.


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