Halperin: Wow, this ObamaCare change just “screams of politics,” huh?
posted at 12:01 pm on February 11, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
As opposed to what? The original delay of the employer mandate in ObamaCare was equally political, and designed for the same purpose, which was to push most of the market disruptions past the midterm elections. No other rational reason existed for the delay except to prevent the entire electorate from getting body-slammed by plan changes and spending most of 2014 looking to take it out on Democrats in November. Unfortunately, no one in the Obama administration appeared to realize that a January 2015 compliance date would mean that disruptions would start taking place in the open-enrollment period that begins in November, just a few weeks before the election.
Thus we get yesterday’s partial delay for yet another year, in the hope that group insurance plans won’t get disrupted until well after the midterms. Mark Halperin argued on Morning Joe that this change doesn’t even have a fig leaf of rationalization, and is just pure politics:
In my column at The Week, I muse on the reversal and the damage it does to the strange celebration of disincentives that took place among Democrats and their apologists this past week, after the release of the CBO report. If the disincentives are so wonderful, why delay any part of the bill? Democrats finally met a disincentive they don’t like, that’s why:
Four years ago, Nancy Pelosi promised that ObamaCare would add four million jobs to the economy. This week, the new catchphrase became “job lock.” Now people would be free to not work, the argument went, thanks to the subsidies provided by those who do work for their health care. Democrats declared this an end to so-called “wage slavery,” but the White House couldn’t quite figure out how to square a smaller economy with bigger taxpayer-financed subsidies into a win for American consumers.
Now, suddenly, one of the main mechanisms of this supposed job-lock freedom bill has to be postponed. Why? According to an unnamed “senior administration official,” medium-sized businesses “need a little more time to adjust to providing coverage.” The law passed in March 2010, nearly four years ago, and the original statutory deadline of January 2014 was in place for more than three years. One would think that business owners, who have to create budgets and capital plans on an annual basis, would already know how to provide coverage — since most businesses have done precisely that, for decades before ObamaCare.
The real problem for the White House is that many of these employers will find ways to get out of providing that coverage — and the Obama administration has known that almost ever since the law passed. HHS’s own analysis showed that as many as 93 million Americans might find themselves out of their current plans when the employer mandate goes into full effect, and the financial disincentives to provide coverage as premiums skyrocket this year means many of those will find themselves in the individual market. …
Suddenly, Democrats have met a disincentive they won’t embrace — the disincentive to vote for the politicians who imposed this unpopular system on taxpayers in the first place. That tells us all we need to know about their embrace of the other disincentives in the ACA.
Even some of the supporters of ObamaCare have had enough. Ron Fournier at National Journal says he’s tired of defending it while the White House keeps manipulating it for its own political purposes:
Advocates for a strong executive branch, including me, have given the White House a pass on its rule-making authority, because implementing such a complicated law requires flexibility. But the law may be getting stretched to the point of breaking. Think of the ACA as a game of Jenga: adjust one piece and the rest are affected; adjust too many and it falls.
If not illegal, the changes are fueling suspicion among Obama-loathing conservatives, and confusion in the rest of us. Even the law’s most fervent supporters are frustrated. …
I want the ACA to work because I want to health insurance provided to the millions without it, for both the moral and economic benefits. I want the ACA to work because, as Charles Lane wrote for the Washington Post, the link between work and insurance needs to be broken. I want the ACA to work because the GOP has not offered a serious alternative that can pass Congress.
Unfortunately, the president and his team are making their good intentions almost indefensible.
Which road, according to an old proverb, was paved with good intentions? The continuous need to change the law should give Fournier a big clue that the law itself is a badly-written disaster, even if the disastrous results haven’t taught that lesson yet. The law creates a command economy and the results of such economies are sadly and easily predicted, not just in theory but in actual experience. Unfortunately, we didn’t learn from history, and are in the midst of an unnecessary and expensive repetition, to paraphrase another apposite proverb.