The Employer Mandate is Postponed: What Does This Mean For Obamacare? Is Ezra Klein Right–Should the Employer Mandate Be Repealed?

The administration has announced that employers with more than 50 employees will not be required to offer insurance to their employees until 2015.

Originally, reform legislation said that these employers would have to offer affordable, comprehensive insurance next year—or face penalties of $2,000 to $3,000 per worker

                              Proof that Obamacare is Not Working?

Without missing a beat, Republicans have stepped forward to say that the delay is evidence that Obamacare is faililng.

What they apparently doesn’t know (or doesn’t want you to realize) is that a delay in  the employer mandate will affect only a fraction of employers, and very few employees

First, the majority of large companies already offer health insurance that includes the benefits that the Affordable Care Act labels “essential.” (The only exceptions tend to be large restaurant and retail chains)

The mandate will have the biggest impact on small companies that today, may offer insurance, but often don’t provide “comprehensive” coverage. The postponement means that these firms will have another year to think about whether they want to expand coverage—or pay a penalty,

But their employees will not be hurt by the delay.  If either a restaurant chain or a small firm doesn’t offer benefits next year, both full-time and part-time workers be able to buy their own coverage in the Individual Exchanges where the majority will be eligible for generous tax credits. The coverage available the Exchanges will be just as good as the insurance their employers will be required to offer in 2015.

As former White House health policy adviser Zeke Emanuel pointed out today on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”:  “The delay of implementation of the employer mandate will impact a limited number of companies. I actually don’t think this is that big a deal,” .

Emanuel went on to point out that the “the provision only applies to employers who have 50 or more employees. He estimated that there are ibkt  200,000 total employers in the U.S. [who would be] impacted and that “94 percent already offer health insurance” to employees.

Emanuel’s estimate may be high: “You’ve got 5.7 million firms in the U.S.,” says Wharton’s Mark Duggan, who served as the top health economist at White House’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2009 to 2010. “Only 210,000 have more than 50 employees. So 96 percent of firms aren’t affected.

“Then if you look among those firms with 50 or more employees, something on the order of 95 percent offer health insurance. So it’s basically 10,000 or so employers who have more than 50 employees and don’t offer coverage. Those companies probably employ around one percent of American workers.”

 To Judge the Success of Obamacare , Don’t Over-React to Day by  Day Headlines

Emanuel  also urged taking a long-term view of what the Affordable Care Act is going to accomplish, saying: “We need to look for 2020 rather than moment to moment for changes in the system.”

I couldn’t agree more. Reforming U.S. healthcare is an enormous undertaking. As I have said in the past, it will be a process, not an event. Along the way, there will be glitches. Each time, reform’s opponents will jump up and down, insisting that the End is Nigh. Obamacare is dead.  We must  ignore them—take the long view, and forge ahead.

I am hopeful that by 2020  reform’s goals will be realized. Even then, we will continue to modify and improve reform legislation over a period of years, just as we have revised Medicare.

The notion that we must “rush” to implement every aspect the ACA is misguided. When attempting to enforce the employer mandate, an emphasis on “speed” could lead to the “train wreck” that Republicans predict. 

What is crucial is that the “Patient Proteciton and Affordable Care Act” protects as many  Americans as possible, as soon as possible, while making medical care affordable by giving those who must buy their own insurance the subsidies they need. In 2014, this will be happening.

In the meantime, we already have begun to rein in health care costs, slowing healthcare inflation from 7% or 8% a year to roughly 3%. This is only a start, but a very good start.                               

                         How Will the Delay Effect the Mid-Term Election?

Predictably, some conservatives are crowing that the delay represents a “huge set back” for Obamacare. “The Obama administration has undermined its sole claim to greatness and delivered a blow to Democrats on the ballot in 2014,” writes Washington Post conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin. /

 In truth, this is far from a major setback for reform. Apparently Rubin doesn’t realize how few employers will be affected, and perhaps she doesn’t understand that without the employer mandate, even if these employers don’t offer benfits, the majority of their workers will be eligible for tax credits in the Indivudal Exchanges,

As for the effect on candidates running in 2014, even Fox News recogizes that Republicans, not Democrats are most likely to be hurt. 

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