The Obama administration's decision to delay by one year the Affordable Care Act's mandate for employer-provided coverage technically affects a tiny share of the American public, analysts say. But a spate of commentaries suggest its emotional impact might be far greater.
In essence, the so-called Play or Pay mandate involves just two groups of businesses: the roughly 10,000 firms with more than 50 full-time employees that don't offer health insurance, and an unknown number of firms with roughly 50 employees that are getting advice to adjust their payrolls so they avoid being subject to penalties for noncompliance. Odds are that far less than 1% of the roughly 6 million companies in America that have employees are subject to the rule.
On the other hand, analysts and Obamacare's opponents see the decision as more evidence of the program's failure. "This groundbreaking change in D.C. is an early indicator that Obamacare may, in fact, be crumbling," wrote Burman Clark of Muneris, a health-care benefits advisory firm. Muneris' clients include the Southern Building Material Association.
Conservatives hailed the delay as another cudgel to beat President Obama's supporters in the 2014 midterm elections; House Speaker John Boehner called Obamacare a "train wreck." More liberal types disagreed. It's no train wreck, commentator Jonathan Chait for New York magazine wrote. And Fox News read the White House decision as an attempt to remove the employer mandate as a campaign issue. CNN also sees Obamacare as a leading issue in 2014.
The delay's greatest impact may be financial. Dr. Aaron Carroll, is an associate professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the director of the university's Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research, noted in his blog that the mandate was designed in large part to help subsidize Obamacare's overall cost.
Regardless of the diversity of opinion, it's certain that Obamacare will continue to be refined. Mark Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy at the Treasury Department, announced that, this summer, the government plans to publish proposed rules implementing provisions of the Affordable Care Act regarding information that certain employers must provide involving the health coverage offered to full-time employees. —Craig Webb is editor-in-chief of REMODELING. Follow him on Twitter at @craiglwebb.