Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are pressing the Obama administration for information on the latest Obamacare delay for businesses.
Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican who chairs the panel, along with five other committee Republicans wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew asking for documents related to the Obama administration's authority to make the changes to the law without Congress' consent, as well as communications between Treasury, Health and Human Services, and the White House about the delay decision.
The members also asked Treasury for documents containing information regarding the burdens businesses were facing in trying to live up to the law's requirement to provide insurance to their employees or face stiff fines.
“Since the passage of the law, the administration has delayed numerous deadlines and effective dates set forth in the statute,” the Republicans wrote. “These delay announcements have only increased with the failed launch of the healthcare.gov website ... It is time for Treasury to provide the legal and factual information underpinning its decisions to delay key provisions of the [Affordable Care Act].”
The Treasury Department on Monday announced that it would delay until 2016 the employer mandate that requires companies with between 50 and 99 workers to provide insurance to its employers or face a fine of $2,000 per employee.
It marked the second time the administration has pushed back the employer, giving them two years longer than the law originally required.
The latest change to the law also provided some relief for employers with more than 99 workers. The law had required larger companies to offer 95 percent of their full-time workers insurance by 2015. These larger employers can now avoid a fine by offering insurance to 70 percent of them by next year.
It was also the latest in a string of Obama administration delays and changes to the law over the last several months.
Just days before the the Oct. 1 launch of the online exchanges, the administration announced that small businesses would not be able to shop online right away. Then, over the Thanksgiving holiday, the administration said that small business exchanges would not be ready for a year. In the intervening months, the administration has twice extended the deadline for individuals to enroll in health insurance.
At the end of December, Treasury announced it would delay the requirement that individuals buy insurance or face fines for those whose insurance providers cancelled their plans because they did not abide by Obamacare requirements.
Republicans have seized on the Monday delay as further evidence that the law is unworkable and have argued that Obama is abusing his executive authority to make changes to the law without consulting Congress.
President Obama has defended the delays, saying they were needed to help “smooth” the law's implementation. Democrats on Capitol Hill also pushed back, saying the president is being forced to act unilaterally because Republicans are dead-set on repealing the law and refuse to help fix it.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., who chairs a key health care subcommittee, said Democrats sat down with Republicans in 2005 and 2006 to make changes to the Republican-passed Medicare Part D prescription drug law even though the vast majority of them has opposed the bill.
But Republicans said that Obamacare delays benefit businesses while continuing to impose fines on individuals who decide not to buy insurance.
“Families and businesses, employees and employers across the country deserve better than the unpredictable and unexplained delays that give a temporary reprieve to some but not others,” he said. “They deserve certainty, and they deserve fairness for all.”
“Our oversight is grounded on the pillars of transparency and accountability, and we expect the administration to deliver the facts with the same priority it has put behind its many delays,” he added.
The same committee members sent a letter to the Treasury Department in early July demanding information regarding the first delay of the employer mandate. Treasury officials also testified that month that they had no plans to delay other provisions of the law.