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Topics: Obamacare

Obamacare's unworkable employer mandate gets delayed again

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Philip Klein,Obamacare,Employer Mandate

A provision in President Obama's health care law that required larger employers to offer acceptable health insurance or face a penalty has been delayed again for most businesses.

The administrative delay, which directly contradicts the text of the law, is another sign that the provision, known as the employer mandate, is unworkable.

Under Obamacare, businesses with 50 or more workers are supposed to be subject to fines of $2,000 per employee (minus the first 30) if one of their workers obtains federal subsidies to purchase insurance on one of the new health insurance exchanges.

The text of the law read that, the requirements, "shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013."

Despite this, last July, Obama's Treasury Department delayed the provision for a year, explaining that the delay would give the government more time to simplify the administrative process and give businesses an extra year to transition to the new requirements. Ultimately, Treasury predicted the delay would, "contribute to a smoother transition to full implementation in 2015."

On Monday, however, the Treasury Department is out with more regulatory changes to the employer mandate, as reported by the Washington Post's Sarah Kliff.

Under the new rules, in 2015, the penalties will only hit employers who have 100 or more employees. And for these larger employers who could be subject to the penalties, they'll only be penalized if they fail to offer coverage to 70 percent of their full-time employees, rather than 95 percent as previously required.

The changes raise several important issues. To start, the employer mandate was put in place to prevent a scenario under which businesses simply dump workers into government-run exchanges. A constantly evolving weakened employer mandate makes dumping more likely.

As designed, the employer mandate also gave businesses an incentive to reduce the number of its full-time employees so that they could get under the cap that triggers the mandate. But, with Democrats on the defensive over the failures of the health care law during the 2014 election year, it isn't surprising that the White House would want to avoid bad headlines and push back full implementation once again.

In the past, I wrote that "Obama has turned his signature legislative accomplishment into a constantly evolving wikilaw, with editing privileges restricted to himself and a few administration officials."

If Obama believes the employer mandate is a bad idea that needs to be repealed or severely changed, he should propose permanent changes rather than erratic piecemeal fixes. But for Obama, it isn't acceptable for opponents of the health care law to seek changes through the constitutional legislative process. That's sabotage. The only way to make changes to Obamacare is for him to do so unilaterally, no matter what the text of the law actually says.

Future Republican presidential aspirants, take note.

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