The Obama administration has quietly delayed another major provision of the president’s health care reforms, pushing back until 2015 the cap on out-of-pocket costs Americans would pay under their health insurance plans.
Some insurers that currently set no limit on how much consumers must pay out of pocket will not have to have limits in place by next year, as the law originally required. The change means some consumers will continue to pay more than promised for health care, undermining a central provision of President Obama's health care pitch: That the reforms would limit how much Americans pay for medical care.
The delay, first reported Tuesday by the New York Times, gives Republicans additional ammunition to continue their attack on Obamacare. The administration also recently delayed until 2015 the requirement for most employers to provide health insurance plans for their workers.
The administrative change was approved in February, but was only recently discovered in an Byzantine online explanation of the new law on the Labor Department's website. The health care law originally called for a $6,350 individual limit on out-of-pocket costs for items like co-payments and a max of $12,700 for families.
As they did when the employer mandate was delayed, administration officials say they approved a grace period because the insurance market needed more time to prepare for the vast overhaul. Insurance companies needed more time partly because their computer systems don't allow them to effectively share information on how much an individual consumer has paid out of pocket.
Critics counter that federal officials have had years to lay the foundation for the changes and that these setbacks are further evidence of the extensive problems the president's health care reforms will cause.
Republicans who have been working to discredit the health care reforms were quick to pounce on the latest discovery.
"Another morning, another #obamacare delay,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said on Twitter, urging people to sign a petition to defund the health care law.
The implementation of Obamacare will certainly hang over the 2014 mid-term elections. Aware of the major political liability, senior Obama administration officials have repeatedly reached out to skittish Democrats to convince them the health reforms won’t doom their re-election chances.
Despite delays in major provisions of the law, the administration is moving ahead with other elements of the reforms, including the creation of health insurance exchanges from which people will be able to purchase insurance, starting in October.