On Latest Obamacare Delay, Americans May Be Numb to the Specifics

Businesses can breath a sigh of relief, at least for now — the famed “employer mandate” of the Affordable Care Act has been put off for another year.

While Obamacare requires companies with 50 or more full-time employees to provide those employees with health insurance, the Obama administration has decided to put this requirement off until 2015. As with previous delays, Republicans are using this as an opportunity to attack the law.

“Although this particular delay doesn’t affect many employers, it gives Republicans a bit more ammunition in their anti-ACA message for the 2014 midterm elections,” said David A. Jones, professor of political science at James Madison University. “They’ll use it to strengthen their ‘delay Obamacare’ argument — that it’s only fair to give individuals an extension too.”

Jones’ comment refers to one of the more controversial aspects of the law, the “individual mandate,” which requires Americans to purchase health insurance or else pay a fine.

Delaying the employer mandate may be a smart reaction to the current state of the economy, according to Sherry Glied, dean and professor of public service at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

This is just the latest of many adjustments, glitches, and delays -- my guess is that many Americans are becoming numb to the specifics.
David A. Jones, professor at James Madison University
“This move is mostly intended to take pressure off businesses in a period of weak hiring,” she said. “It doesn’t affect many businesses, but should help in reducing the need for some businesses to start worrying about this problem.”

Job creation slowed notably during the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014. As reported by Reuters, this was due in part to the extreme winter weather pummeling much of the U.S.

Still,

“This is just more ammunition,” Glied said. “It makes so little material difference — it just looks bad.”

She did note, however, that the delay might cause a small increase in government spending by sending more people to subsidized coverage in health care exchanges.

But at this point, many Americans may have lost interest in the nitty-gritty details of the battle, Jones suggested.

“This is just the latest of many adjustments, glitches and delays,” he said. “My guess is that most Americans are becoming numb to the specifics.”

Data from a December 2013 Gallup poll might back that up. While just over half of Americans said they want Obamacare scaled back or repealed, that’s much the same answer Gallup has been getting since it began asking the question in 2011.

Getting a law as big as Obamacare up and running is about choosing wisely which battles to fight, and Democrats may have decided this is a time to rally their strength for later.

“It’s probably fair to say that this law is so complex and comprehensive that policymakers and implementers have to pick and choose where they’re going to push their administrative and political capital and where it makes sense to hold back,” Glied said. “It looks like they decided to hold back here.”