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Another Obamacare Delay for Business

continued...

There are elections in November. Isn’t this mainly about Democratic damage control?

That’s what Republicans say. Besides seeing the delay as new evidence that the law is fatally flawed, they depict it as political camouflage for vulnerable Democrats, as a way to avoid potential October stories blaming job-market disruption on the health law.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said Democrats don’t believe they “can survive politically if Obamacare is allowed to fully go into effect. This is just one more admission that the law is bad for hardworking taxpayers and American employers."

Democrats say the extension is about giving employers more leeway to comply with a very complex law.

Do I have to still buy coverage if my employer doesn’t offer it?

In most cases, yes. Unless you get an exemption, you must enroll by March 31 or pay a penalty.

People whose companies don’t offer coverage can purchase insurance in online state and federal marketplaces. If they earn less than $46,960 for an individual or $78,120 for a family of three, they could qualify for a subsidy. 

Why do employers get a reprieve from ACA requirements but not individuals?

It’s a question many are asking. Some believe the administration will yield to pressure to delay the mandate for individuals, especially since so many of the online marketplaces proved difficult to navigate.

“How are you going to penalize people who didn’t make it through the system?” wonders Joseph Antos, a health care economist at the American Enterprise Institute. 

Insurance companies, which need as much participation as possible to make individual coverage financially sustainable, would sharply oppose such a move. Unfortunately for Democrats, that nuance might be lost on voters.

“It’s hard to explain to the electorate that [postponing the individual mandate] would subvert the risk pool,” said Dan Mendelson, head of consultant Avalere Health.

Will this pacify critics?

No. True, the National Retail Federation’s Neil Trautwein said the administration should get “a gold medal” for “its agility and flexibility” in working with employers.

But the change doesn’t affect that many companies. And it delivers a new talking point to opponents who say the law is unworkable.

“Employers know they have the administration on the run,” said Robert Laszewski, an insurance consultant and former industry executive. “Putting this off one more year isn’t going to mollify them. They are more mad now because they are more convinced they are right.”

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communications organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tue, Feb 11 2014

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