In the wake of the decision to delay the employer mandate of Obamacare, some defenders of the Obama administration, predictably, are suggesting that this is no big deal, and if it is, it’s the Republicans fault. Others are more candid: This is one big mess.
On “Meet the Press,” Chuck Todd argued, “Well, they’ll admit that the– the business mandate was poorly written, that they normally would have sought a legislative fix. . . but they can’t get a legislative fix out of the House.
This is odd on multiple grounds. First, the administration never suggested a fix was needed. (Remember, the president told us everything was perfectly fine.) And second, it’s hard to fathom what the “fix” would be. The essence of the law is a gigantic bureaucracy overseen by the feds, especially the Internal Revenue Service, most prominently). It is premised on the notion the states can be pressured into doing what the feds could not (e.g. setting up exchanges). It is not a matter of being “poorly written” but of being at its core unworkable.
The delays of isolated parts of the law create more problems, as we see with the delayed employer mandate. Individuals, but not businesses, will still be compelled to find insurance, creating a gross inequity and opening up the potential for mass dumping of employer coverage. Moreover, as the Wall Street Journal editorial board points out, the administration also announced it won’t bother verifying income in order to dole out subsidies in the exchanges:
In other words, anyone can receive subsidies tied to income without judging the income they declare against the income data the Internal Revenue Service collects. This change has nothing to do with the employer mandate, even tangentially. HHS is disowning eligibility quality control because pre-clearance is “not feasible” as a result of “operational barriers” and “a large amount of systems development on both the state and federal side, which cannot occur in time for October 1, 2013.” . . .
Liberals are also now claiming that the employer mandate and these eligibility rules were never important parts of ObamaCare. This is revisionist history, not least because the mandate and eligibility limits helped reduce the cost as measured by the Congressional Budget Office.
The revisionism is also false because every provision of ObamaCare is supposed to “solve” a problem created by some other provision of the bill. Kick out one of the struts like the business mandate and the whole apparatus becomes even more unstable.
Well, if that is the case, why bother with the mandate on employers at all? That is what some liberals wanted all along — every American either on Medicaid or in a subsidized exchange. The cost of that and its resemblance to a single-payer system wouldn’t have been acceptable when the law was passed, of course. But if that is what they desire, Congress should try amending the law.
So then it is not the lack of fixes or governors’ intransigence that is at the root of the monstrous problems associated with the president’s signature legislation. The “fix” the administration and its supporters need is actually an entire reconfiguration of the law since what passed is not implementable.
Republicans agree that Obamacare can’t be implemented. Good policy formulation and the Constitution, however, require that Congress amend or repeal legislation. That’s precisely what Congress should do now that it’s dawned on both sides of the aisle that Obamacare as originally passed is a bust.
If the president wants “fixes,” let him spell them out. And Republicans should get off their duffs and come up with their proposal to replace Obamacare. Since everyone agrees the current law is unworkable, the entire measure should be held in abeyance until the president and Congress can revamp the legislation to meet the president’s original promises — it doesn’t add a dime to the deficit, allows Americans to keep their insurance, and expands affordable coverage. The current version doesn’t do that.