President: Rae Chornenky
 
Editor: Maria Jeffrey

This Week on the Hill: 

 

In the Senate, Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) may consider using the "nuclear option" to quicken the nomination process of several administration nominations; energy and water appropriations may come up soon, as well as student loan legislation. 

 

In the House, energy and water appropriations will consume the majority of the week, with the amendment process possibly ending Thursday.

On the ObamaCare-Employer-Mandate Delay and What That Means for the Future of ObamaCare

          Last week, the Obama administration decided to delay the imposition of ObamaCare's employer mandate from taking effect in 2014 until 2015. Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute, has been following the progress of ObamaCare's implementation since the law was passed. The following bullet points are derived from his recent work in the process of making sense of the ObamaCare law and why the delay of the employer mandate is significant: 
  • The employer mandate is an essential thread in the fabric of ObamaCare. The law requires employers to report the health insurance benefits they offer their employees so that the federal government can gauge whether the employees of that company are eligible for subsidies to buy health insurance. The subsidies the federal government awards will be for those employees making up to 400 percent of the poverty level. By delaying the requirement to report the benefits offered to an employee by an employer, the federal government cannot gauge if an employee is eligible for the subsidies to purchase insurance on her own that Obamacare promises. Without being able to determine who is eligible for subsidies and awarding them as the law demands, an employee may be unable to purchase insurance without the help of the subsidy, and then may qualify for the unaffordability exemption from the individual mandate. Cannon argues that if this happens, "fewer workers will purchase health insurance and premiums will rise further, which could ultimately end in an adverse selection death spiral." On the other hand, "The administration can't exactly solve this problem by offering credits and subsidies to everyone who applies, either. Not only would this increase the cost of the law, but it would also lead to a backlash in 2015 when some people have their subsidies revoked." 
  • Soon after the administration decided to delay the imposition of ObamaCare's employer mandate, the administration asked the fourth circuit court to block the Liberty University v. Geithner case (dealing with the employer mandate) because of the delay. Yesterday, the administration asked for delays to the Pruitt v. Sebelius and Hailbig v. Sebelius cases, both dealing with the employer mandate. 
  • ObamaCare very clearly states that the employer mandate will take effect on January 1, 2014, and Congress has not given the Treasury Department the authority to waive the mandate and the penalties. The administration, by delaying the mandate by executive fiat, is violating the law. As Cannon points out, the only provision in the bill that allows the Treasury Secretary to waive the employer mandate is Section 1332. This section states that the employer mandate can be waived only for a specific state after 2017, if that state passes a law to provide health insurance to its residents without incurring costs on the federal government. Aside from Section 1332, in no circumstance is it permissible for the Treasury Secretary to waive the employer mandate. 
  • ObamaCare very clearly states that employers must report certain information about the coverage they are offering employees and the employees that take advantage of the benefits starting January 1, 2014. Again, Congress has not given the Treasury Department the authority to waive and delay the reporting provisions in the law. 
  • Given the many problems some states are having with setting up their state health care exchanges before the October 1 deadline, the fact that the Obama administration has delayed the employer mandate "suggests that, from the Obama administration's uniquely informed vantage point, the chaos that will result from its delay will be less than what would result from implementing it when the law requires....if this is the path of least resistance, then ObamaCare itself must be even more chaotic," according to Cannon.
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