Obamacare’s latest debacle

By Tom Quiner


Obama senses a disaster.

In tacit admission of the looming regulatory nightmare wrought by Obamacare, the administration is postponing a key element of the bill: the employer mandate.

You know the one: it requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide their workers with health insurance, or pay a fine.

Businesses were screaming. The administration saw that this provision is unworkable and will provide dramatic burdens on businesses and our entire economy.

They’ve deferred implementation to, you guessed it, after the midterm elections next year.

Does the deferral of this provision mean we can relax for another year-and-a-half? No. The mandate remains. It simply means that workers who don’t have health insurance at work are now the ones mandated to purchase their own individual policy, or else THEY will pay the fine.

The Des Moines Register ran an essay yesterday by an expert on the subject, Brian Gillette. Mr. Gillette is chief operating officer of Group Benefits Ltd., a health insurance agency in Urbandale that provides guidance to more than 2,000 employers across Iowa and 30,000 Iowa families.

He has spoken to some 3000 business owners in over 100 health care reform seminars he has conducted. Interestingly, not one has supported the law and the “additional costs and burdens it will inflict upon them and their employees.”

He explains his concerns and those of his clients:

“My seminars are not political discussions. These are detailed discussions of the law and the new requirements and fees it creates for businesses and their employees.

These requirements include providing each employee specific pieces of paper at precisely the prescribed times during the year or facing a $1,000 fine per employee per day.

Or the requirement that insurance carriers now have to build in numerous additional fees into their health insurance premiums that will cost individual employees hundreds, if not thousands, of extra dollars per year.

The much-celebrated insurance exchanges will also be a nightmare. Start with the fact that they will not do anything to lower health care costs. After all, the reason health insurance premiums are so high is because health costs are so high, and exchanges don’t do anything about that. In fact, they do just the opposite.

Recently issued guidance confirms that exchanges will charge a 3.5 percent fee to all health insurance plans listed on them. A fee of 3.5 percent isn’t so bad, right?

Right— until you consider that next year’s average annual family premium will be over $15,000. But who cares? It’s just another $525 we can expect the American public to pay each year for a law that doesn’t actually address the real drivers of cost increases.

In theory, Americans can go to these exchanges to complete a 12page, 21-section government form to determine if they are eligible for a subsidy. They will have to send that form to three different federal agencies that, again in theory, will respond in less than two days about whether they qualify for a subsidy.

It’s a good theory— in much the same way that communism works, in theory.”

Let’s set theory aside. There seems to be agreement now that health insurance is going to cost many of us more, much more, under Obamacare.

The deferral of the employee mandate is partially, maybe even primarily, a political move to save Democrats from another midterm election disaster. After all, if Republicans were to retain control of the House AND gain control of the Senate, they can gut Obamacare through the budget reconciliation process, which removes a filibuster from the equation.

How is this possible? Because the Supreme Court said the Mandate penalties are not fines, they are  taxes.

As Marc Franc of the Heritage Foundation puts it:

“The mandate is now a revenue provision. Therefore, it is germane and not subject to a Senate parliamentary point of order to strike it from a repeal bill. The Senate’s filibuster process that would require a supermajority of 60 Senate votes to approve repeal is now irrelevant.”

If the composition of the Senate changes, Republicans may be able to gut Obamacare. That’s why the stakes are so high and why the president wants to limit the carnage of Obamacare until after the next election cycle.


  1. Shawn Pavlik on July 8, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Hmm…the senate….according to wikipedia, there are 20 Democrats and 15 Republicans up for re-election in 2014. Democrats at risk and their most recent margin: Alaska (won by 1%) , Iowa (new senator), Louisiana (6%), Michigan (new senator), Minnesota (essentially tied), Montana (new senator), Oregon (3%). Republicans at risk and their most recent margin: Georgia (new senator), Kentucky (6%), Nebraska (new senator), New Jersey (election in 2013), South Carolina (newly appointed senator). Current makeup is 45 Republicans, 2 independents who caucus with the Dems, and 53 Dems. We need 6 seats. In other words, we would have to hold all of our seats and take 6 of the 7 seats that are possibly “in play”. I am not feeling optimistic….

    Although, looking at that same page, polls are showing probable pickups in West Virginia and South Dakota, and listed 4 “blue” seats as tossups: Alaska, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Louisiana. Unfortunately, they also list New Jersey as switching, as the current replacement for Frank Lautenburg was a Republican appointee. If we carried all 6 of those and lost New Jersey, that would give us a 50-50 split, and Biden breaks the tie. Iowa could be the deciding seat….

    • quinersdiner on July 9, 2013 at 7:43 am

      A lot can happen in the next year and a half. Obamacare is a ticking time bomb. The president is doing everything he can to keep it from exploding before the next election.