Topics: Obamacare

Reading Obamacare before passing it would have been a waste of time

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Opinion,David Freddoso,Columnists,Barack Obama,Obamacare,Employer Mandate,Health Care Exchanges

During the original debate over Obamacare, we saw some of the perils behind amateur attempts to read and decipher complicated legislation. A cottage industry of genuine misunderstandings arose – although those who tried to read those thousands of pages deserve credit for trying when most members of Congress never did.

But some of Obamacare's provisions are very simple and can confuse no one – for example, its deadlines.

The requirement that businesses with more than 49 full-time employees provide them with insurance (or else pay fines) was to take effect on Jan. 1. The White House decreed last summer (without legal authority) that it would be delayed a year. Now, President Obama has decreed (again, without legal authority) that for businesses with 50 to 99 employees, it will be delayed a second year, until 2016.

An overwhelming majority of large employers provide insurance to their workers, and an even bigger number of businesses are too small (fewer than 50 employees) to be affected. But for a provision that promises to insure relatively few uninsured people, the employer mandate creates some mighty and perverse incentives.

It is designed to punish employers (or at least make them share the costs) when their uninsured workers get insurance with taxpayer subsidies on Obamacare's exchanges. But if it ever takes effect, the employer mandate will also be a new barrier for businesses that want to expand. It means that your 50th full-time hire is your most expensive and will result in the greatest amount of government involvement in your life. As liberals warned when the Senate version of the ACA passed (the House version was different), it will especially discourage the hiring of people from poorer households who have families – the ones most in need of a job, but also most likely to qualify for subsidies and trigger fines for their employers.

But what's especially disturbing about the new delay is the accompanying threat to businesses that might now try to make arbitrary staffing changes to get below 100 employees and fit the in-between category created by the arbitrary rule-change. Employers will have to sign “self-attestations” that they did not act under the perverse incentives that Obama's new directive has created.

In practice, this directive probably doesn't amount to much. If your business hasn't already downsized, switched to part-time hires, or offered insurance in order to comply with Obamacare's requirements, it hardly seems worth it to fire a few people merely in order to avoid fines for a single year. But in principle, it's an outrage.

Employers generally get to decide, within the broad latitude of the law, how to run their businesses. The IRS has never had the power to demand a sworn explanation for decisions about manpower or staffing levels.

This arbitrary expansion of IRS power creates an ugly precedent. There exists no authority for it anywhere in Obamacare. Congress has never granted such authority. But then, Congress also didn't create authority for the arbitrary Obamacare deadline-change that supposedly justifies it.

Each executive power-grab creates a precedent for another. Obama isn't just making up the rules as he goes, he's also making up new rules that govern how the other made-up new rules apply.

At this point, it probably would not have mattered even if members of Congress had read Obamacare. It isn't actually a written law - it becomes the law whenever Obama decides, and with whatever changes he chooses.

DAVID FREDDOSO, a Washington Examiner columnist, is the former Editorial Page Editor for the Examiner and the New York Times-bestselling author of "Spin Masters: How the Media Ignored the Real News and Helped Re-elect Barack Obama." He has also written two other books, "The Case Against Barack Obama" (2008) and "Gangster Government" (2011).
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