The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Another Delay?

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


The Obama Administration is changing the requirements again for the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.  Reuters reports the administration has decided to delay signing the final agreements with insurance plans that are going to be sold in the healthcare insurance exchanges.  The exchanges are supposed to be up and running on Oct. 1.

According to Reuters, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notified insurance companies on Tuesday it would not sign final agreements between Sept 5 and 9 but would wait until the middle of September to do so.  It is not clear why there is a new delay but sources believe it is due to technical problems related to displaying health insurance products within the federal information technology system.

Difficulties with implementing the complicated computer system, called the data hub, which is suppose to link the state exchanges enrollment and benefit data with tax-returns of individuals and whether they qualify for subsidies, citizenship information, and so forth has been discussed and reported before.  You can find information on that here, here, and here.

This additional delay will feed into the growing belief that Obamacare is not, and may never be, ready for prime-time.  Many states have refused to set up an exchange as well, forcing the federal government to undertake the task.  A GAO report said many of the exchanges are behind schedule and questions have arisen what will happen if they are not ready on time.

All of these delays may assist Republicans in eventually getting Obamacare repealed, which continues to be a goal in Washington.

Currently, there is a lot of discussion by political pundits in the press on how members of the Republican caucus are fighting with each other over Obamacare.  Senators like Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rand Paul(R-KY) are calling for a continuing resolution (CR) that funds the entire government but not Obamacare. (A CR will assuredly be needed to be passed before October 1 to keep the government open because Congress has not passed all of their appropriations or spending bills.)

Others, like Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Richard Burr (R-NC), are against using a CR to defund Obamacare because the votes are not currently present to get it passed and the president would veto the bill even if it should pass.

But, contrary what many would have you believe, for Republican congressional members it is not a question or disagreement on whether Obamacare should be repealed, it is a disagreement on the tactics to get there.

One alternative being discussed is trying to get a bill passed that would also delay the individual mandate, similar to the delay Obama implemented for businesses.  It is also an idea that may get enough Democrat votes to get it passed and the president would likely sign it into law.  Several organizations have signed onto a letter to Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) “to insist on, at minimum as part of any final deal, a one-year delay of all 2014 provisions (including mandates, subsidies, and taxes) in the upcoming CR and in fiscal negotiations with the White House.”

The reason why it may work is the president has already delayed several aspects of the law (albeit without the authority to do so) from the employer mandate, to limiting out-of-pocket caps, to the verification of income level in order to determine if an individual can qualify for taxpayer-funded subsidies.

Labor unions could easily support this policy change since they have already expressed dismay to Democrat leadership that Obamacare is hurting their membership.  And there may be many powerful Democrats who know Obamacare is a pending train-wreck and would support such a move as well.

One benefit of delaying Obamacare is citizens will not become used to government “sugar”, the taxpayer-funded subsidies supporting the purchase of a health plan.  However in reality; for most individuals or families, it would likely be cheaper to pay the fine for not purchasing a plan.  And since there are no longer pre-existing conditions and guarantee issue, a person could wait until they need insurance to purchase it.

Congress returns to Washington on September 9.  That leaves them less than a month to pass a CR. It will be interesting to see if Republicans and some Democrats agree on delaying yet another aspect of Obamacare.

 

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