An Obamacare concession the GOP could actually get

September 25, 2013

Here's an Obamacare concession Republicans really might be able to get Democrats to agree to: End the employer mandate forever.

(Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)
(Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

A casual listener to Sen. Ted Cruz's kinda-buster would think this a major goal of the Republican Party. He's returned again and again to the effect it might have on businesses with more than 50 workers that don't offer affordable health insurance. That's a pretty small number of businesses, but the effects there will be real: Some will offer health insurance, but others will cut back on their workers' hours so they don't qualify as "full time," and still others will fire workers to get under the 50-employee threshold.

"We need to make D.C. listen," Cruz said. "Make them listen to the single mom working in the diner, struggling to feed her kids, who has just been told she has to take a cut in hours due to Obamacare.

At 7:40 p.m. last night — so one of his few prime-time hours — Cruz read off a lengthy list of businesses that are, or might, cut worker hours because of the mandate. He returned to the theme again and again through the night. And he's right to. That part of the law really is badly designed.

But it's also been delayed for a year. So, as of now, it's not happening until 2015. And Republicans could probably get Democrats to agree that it shouldn't happen ever, at least not as currently designed.

If Republicans are really worried about these businesses and these workers, they could help them. Unlike defunding or delaying Obamacare, or even delaying the individual mandate, this is a concession Republicans really might be able to get the Obama administration to agree to. They'd be on the right side of both the policy and the public. The question is whether they actually want to help these workers or just grandstand against the law.

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Brad Plumer · September 25, 2013