The Republican-controlled House yet again passed legislation Wednesday that aims to change the Affordable Care Act. This time Republicans called for one-year delays on two key provisions, one requiring nearly all Americans to buy health insurance and the other requiring businesses with more than 50 full-time employees to provide coverage.
The Obama administration has already delayed the requirement for businesses. President Obama plans to veto the House’s legislation, and Senate leaders have no plans to take similar action.
This marked the 38th and 39th times that the House has voted to repeal or change all or part of the landmark Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. Many Republicans see this as an effort to counteract a flawed law that is unraveling. Many Democrats see it as grandstanding to please voters — and a complete waste of time.
“These bills are going nowhere,” Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said on the House floor Wednesday. “This is a game. This is political messaging. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Starting Jan. 1, the government will require most Americans to have health insurance. That was also supposed to be the start date for the government requiring businesses of a certain size to offer health benefits to employees who work at least 30 hours each week. Not doing so would result in a hefty per-employee fine.
This month, the White House gave those businesses another year to prepare. That also buys the government time to simplify the cost-reporting process that businesses will eventually use.
Democrats have played down the potential impact of this delay. White House spokesman Jay Carney has said that about 96 percent of employers already offer some form of health insurance. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) has said the delay will not slow implementation of the new law.
But Republicans seized upon the delay, seeing it as yet another weakness in Obamacare. They introduced two bills: One called for a one-year delay for employers, the action that the administration has already taken. The second bill called for a one-year delay for individuals. Both passed on Wednesday, mostly along party lines.
The White House said in a statement that the first bill is “unnecessary” and the second would increase health insurance premiums and the number of uninsured people.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said last week that the administration’s planned delay is “unfair and indefensible.”
“Is it fair for the president to give American businesses an exemption from the law’s mandates without giving the same break to individuals and families across the country?” Boehner said. “Hell no, it isn’t.”
Republicans echoed Boehner’s thoughts on Wednesday. They also criticized Obama for changing dates in the legislation, something they believe only Congress can do. And they continued to slam the Affordable Care Act.
“This law is imploding,” said Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a co-sponsor of the bills. “This law is unnecessary. This law needlessly raises health-care costs. And this law will cause millions of people to lose the health insurance that they have, that they want to keep.”
Democrats reminded their colleagues that this is the “law of the land” and has been upheld by the Supreme Court. They listed the ways that the reform has already benefited millions and will continue to benefit millions more.
But, mostly, the Democrats criticized their colleagues for bringing forth yet another round of bills to attack the health-care law.
“Well, here we go again,” Rep. Sander M. Levin (Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said on the House floor Wednesday. “Another sideshow.”