POLITICS: PennAve

White House: Obamacare delays are ‘right thing to do’

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Beltway Confidential,White House,Obamacare,Health Care,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,Analysis

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday said delaying key health care reforms is the “right thing to do” and demonstrates the administration’s “flexibility” when it comes to implementing the law.

“We make determinations that are in the interest of successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” Carney said. “We are flexible because that is the right thing to do and to be.”

Carney’s statements are the first White House response to questions about the administration's decision last week to delay two significant aspects of the law. Republicans seized on the delays as evidence that the federal government is in no position to implement the law even though enrollment in government health care exchanges is set to begin Oct. 1.

The Treasury Department last week said it would push back to 2015 a provision that requires companies with more than 50 full-time employees to provide health coverage or face stiff penalties.

That delay, Carney said, only affects about 4 percent of employers because the others already provide insurance.

“Numerous experts agree on this matter that the decision to postpone implementation of this provision of the [health care law] will have no significant impact on the implementation of the overall [law],” he added.

The Department of Health and Human Services also released regulations on Friday abandoning requirements that the federal government verify information reported by consumers about their income, employer and whether they have insurance when they enroll in the exchanges this fall.

In essence, the government will accept at face value what consumers report up until 2015, the regulations said. Those who report false information to qualify for a higher government health care subsidy will face a $25,000 fine and be forced to repay any excess subsidies they received.

Republicans countered that such a policy and lack of enforcement would open the floodgates to widespread health care fraud.

Carney had no comment on getting a verification process up and running and the press didn’t push him further on the issue Monday in a briefing that focused almost entirely on Egypt’s tumultuous political crisis.

Instead, Carney stressed the positive, arguing that the insurance exchanges would be up and running Oct. 1, as advertised, and on Jan. 1, those who have applied for insurance will begin to use it.

He said one out of every four health insurers will offer insurance in the new government-run marketplaces, helping to reduce consumer costs “because that’s what competition can do.”

Republicans see the multiple delays as the beginning of the end for the president's health care reforms, but worry that it will be hard to repeal the law once Americans are receiving coverage, even if the law is a bureaucratic nightmare and a downward drag on jobs.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other Republican leaders called it odd that the administration was granting a reprieve to businesses while keeping a requirement mandating that every American have insurance or face an IRS fine.

“It’s time to put people first, repeal this entire law, and start over with patient-centered reforms that protect families, improve our health care system, and restore personal freedom,” Boehner and the other leaders said in a joint statement last week.

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