House Leaders Ask Obama About Healthcare Law Delays

Also request delays for other provisions

BY:

Congressional leaders sent a letter to President Barack Obama Tuesday morning inquiring into last week’s delays in Obamacare’s implementation and arguing that the delays prove that the law is fatally flawed.

The administration last week delayed for one year the law’s requirement that employers provide their employees with health insurance by Jan. 1, 2014. This delay then triggered another waiver for the requirement that state health insurance exchanges verify the insurance status and income of those receiving subsidies through the exchanges.

"We agree with you that many of the provisions in the law cannot be implemented within the current time frame; but we strongly disagree with you that time will ever remedy these predictable consequences of the law," the congressmen wrote. "Many have predicted the problems that your administration now acknowledges, and each provision you delay continues to demonstrate that the entire law is unworkable."

The congressional leaders who signed the letter include Speaker of the House John Boehner (R., Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.), GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), and Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R., Wis.).

"PPACA places an enormous new burden on employers that clearly contributes to the economy and job growth remaining relatively stagnant," they contend in the letter.

The congressmen asked the president to provide Congress with his administration’s analyses of the effects of delay by Aug. 1. They also asked for the legal justification behind the delays.

Finally, the letter also asks the president to consider delaying the individual mandate as well.

"We agree with you that the burden was overwhelming for employers, but we also believe American families need the same relief," they wrote.

The letter only discusses the delay in the employer mandate and does not mention the administration’s waiver of the verification protocol for the state exchanges.

Experts have argued that this second waiver could open up the state exchanges to rampant fraud.

The states will not be able to verify the income of those applying for income-based subsidies because the federal government will not have the "data hub" that would hold the information ready in time for the Oct. 1 opening of the state exchanges.

The delays come in the wake of earlier concerns that the complex law will not be ready and is unduly burdensome.

Other parts of the law have already been delayed or scrapped. Congress repealed a reporting requirement for businesses in 2011, and an insurance exchange for small businesses and a managed-care option have been delayed.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in June outlined challenges facing the implementation of federally facilitated exchanges in the states.

After noting that the administration had already missed some deadlines, the GAO noted in the report that the administration still has many things to do, creating "a potential for challenges going forward."

"And while the missed interim deadlines may not affect implementation, additional missed deadlines closer to the start of enrollment could do so," the GAO wrote last month.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R., Mich.) slammed the delays on Monday.

"There are a lot of questions that need to be answered, from the cost to the added confusion. And what other parts of the law are going to be ignored next?" he said.

An Energy and Commerce subcommittee will hold a hearing on the delays and waivers next week.

Andrew Evans   Email Andrew | Full Bio | RSS
Andrew Evans is an assistant editor at National Affairs and a former reporter for the Washington Free Beacon, where he covered government accountability and healthcare issues.

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