EDITORIAL: 'Obamacare' means whatever president says it does
“ObamaCare” is useful shorthand for the Affordable Care Act not least because the law increasingly means whatever President Obama says it does on any given day. His latest lawless rewrite arrived on Feb. 10 as the White House decided to delay the law’s employer mandate for another year and in some cases maybe forever.
ObamaCare requires businesses with 50 or more workers to offer health insurance to their workers or pay a penalty, but last summer the Treasury offered a year-long delay until 2015 despite having no statutory authorization.
Like the individual mandate, the employer decree is central to ObamaCare’s claim of universal coverage, but employers said the new labor costs — and the onerous reporting and tax-enforcement rules — would damage job creation and the economy.
Liberals insisted that such arguments were false if not beneath contempt, but then all of a sudden the White House implicitly endorsed the other side. Now the new delay arrives amid a furious debate about jobs after a damning Congressional Budget Office report last week, only this time with liberals celebrating ObamaCare’s supposed benefits to the job market.
Well, which is it? Either ObamaCare is ushering in a worker’s paradise, in which case by the White House’s own logic exempting businesses from its ministrations is harming employees. Or else the mandate really is leading business to cut back on hiring, hours and shifting workers to part-time as the evidence in the real economy suggests.
Under the new Treasury rule, firms with 50 to 99 full-time workers are free from the mandate until 2016. And firms with 100 or more workers now also only need cover 70 percent of full-time workers in 2015 and 95 percent in 2016 and after, not the 100 percent specified in the law.
The new rule also relaxes the mandate for certain occupations and industries that were at particular risk for disruption, like volunteer firefighters, teachers, adjunct faculty members and seasonal employees. Oh, and the Treasury also notes that, “As these limited transition rules take effect, we will consider whether it is necessary to further extend any of them beyond 2015.” So the law may be suspended indefinitely if the White House feels like it.
By now ObamaCare’s proliferating delays, exemptions and administrative retrofits are too numerous to count, most of them of dubious legality. The text of the Affordable Care Act specifically says when the mandate must take effect — “after December 31, 2013” — and does not give the White House the authority to change the terms.
Changing an unambiguous statutory mandate requires the approval of Congress, but then this President has often decided the law is whatever he says it is. His Administration’s cavalier notions about law enforcement are especially notable here for their bias for corporations over people. The White House has refused to suspend the individual insurance mandate, despite the harm caused to millions who are losing their previous coverage.
Liberals say the law isn’t harming jobs or economic growth, but everything this White House does screams the opposite.