KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Announcement Of Delay In Health Law’s Employer Mandate Sparks Heated — And Contrary — Views

Among the range of perspectives offered by commentators: It is "the right thing to do" but the wrong way; "administration has undermined its sole claim to greatness;" "doesn't have much effect."

The New York Times: Economix: Putting Off The Employer Mandate
Well, I didn't see that coming. The Obama administration announced Tuesday afternoon that it was going to delay an important part of the Affordable Care Act for one year. The rule requiring employers with at least 50 full-time workers to provide them with coverage or pay a penalty (also known as the employer mandate) will now be enforced starting in 2015, not 2014 as originally planned (Jared Berstein, 7/2). 

The Washington Post’s Wonk Blog: Obamacare's Employer Mandate Shouldn’t Be Delayed. It Should Be Repealed
Delaying Obamacare's employer mandate is the right thing to do. Frankly, eliminating it — or at least utterly overhauling it — is probably the right thing to do. But the administration executing a regulatory end-run around Congress is not the right way to do it (Ezra Klein, 7/2).

The Washington Post's Right Turn: Seven Reasons Obamacare's Employer Mandate Delay Is A Huge Deal
In deciding to postpone the implementation of the employer mandate, the Obama administration has undermined its sole claim to greatness and delivered a blow to Democrats on the ballot in 2014. Here are seven reasons (more will pop up in the days to come) why it is a huge setback (Jennifer Rubin, 7/2).

Bloomberg: The Side Effects Of Delaying Obamacare
The essential challenge with adjusting Obamacare is that it is an interlocking combination of policies. The coverage mandates, for instance, pair with regulations that make coverage more generous and more expensive. Without them, the higher cost of insurance might cause the healthiest to opt out, further raising insurance premiums and creating a spiraling problem known as adverse selection. The employer mandate would have worked in a similar way by relieving pressure on the individual market. That said, there is a strong case for getting rid of the employer mandate (Evan Soltas, 7/2).

Bloomberg: Is Obamacare Headed for Even More Trouble?
The decision of President Barack Obama's administration to delay a crucial component of its health-care reform law, first reported today by Bloomberg News, raises two immediate questions. First, can the White House protect other components of the law from renewed attack? Second, what does this say about the broader problems facing implementation? (Christopher Flavelle, 7/2).

Forbes: White House To Delay Obamacare's Employer Mandate Until 2015; Far-Reaching Implications For The Private Health Insurance Market
In the short term, the delay will have several effects. First, the mandate drives up the cost of labor, and therefore increases unemployment; delaying the mandate by one year may modestly mitigate that disincentive. Most importantly, the delay of the mandate means that more people will want to enroll in Obamacare’s subsidized insurance exchanges. Every year, fewer and fewer employers offer health coverage; given one more year to restructure their workforces, this process could accelerate (Avik Roy, 7/2).

The New Republic: Some Bad News About Obamacare That Isn't Bogus
I've always liked the employer mandate, largely for its symbolic value: It's a way of making sure everybody contributes to health coverage, in some manner. But economists and health policy experts will tell you, almost universally, that the employer mandate is actually bad policy. As they see it, the requirement doesn't have much effect on whether most employers decide to offer their workers coverage. For the most part, the experts say, employers will decide whether to offer coverage based largely on whether they think it helps retains employees (Jonathan Cohn, 7/2).

And on other aspects of the health law -

The New York Times: A Chance For Pro Sports To Help On Health Care
The Obama administration thought it had a smart way to publicize the benefits of health care reform: get some professional athletes to help spread the word. Millions of uninsured Americans, after all, don’t know that they will be able to sign up for free or subsidized health insurance beginning Oct. 1, and they may be more likely to pay attention to athletes explaining it than to politicians. ... But when Republicans found out the administration planned to approach the major sports leagues, they decided to commit interference (7/2).

The New York Times: Economix: Confusing The Public On The Affordable Care Act
In my previous post I explained that general statements on the probable impact of the Affordable Care Act on the pocketbooks of Americans often do not make sense and can be quite misleading. My point can be illustrated with a recent news release from the Ohio Department of Insurance, "Health Insurance Costs to Increase Significantly Under Affordable Care Act." The department states that it "released the information today to help health insurance consumers continue to prepare for the expected price increases." It offers a one-sided perspective (Uwe E. Reinhardt, 7/2). 

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