Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

February 13, 2014

The law is also a mandate

The Obama administration on Monday announced that it was delaying, once again, enforcement of the Affordable Care Act “employer mandate.” Yes, Republicans have done everything they can to impede implementation of this law. Yes, their “solution” — gutting the individual mandate — is an awful idea. And, yes, their public response to the administration’s action was predictably over-the-top. But none of that excuses President Obama’s increasingly cavalier approach to picking and choosing how to enforce this law. Imagine how Democrats would respond if a President Rand Paul, say, moved into the White House in 2017 and announced he was going to put off provisions of Obamacare he thought might be too onerous to administer.

The Treasury Department released rules Monday for medium and large employers, which under the ACA are supposed to chip in for their employees’ health care. The law says they were supposed to have provided health coverage to full-time employees by Jan. 1 or pay fines to help defray the government’s costs of covering them. Last summer, in response to business concerns that the rules weren’t ready, Treasury delayed these requirements for a year.

That was already a stretch of governmental discretion, but it was defensible given the law’s complexity and the relatively small consequences of delaying this particular mandate. This week, Treasury changed the rules again: medium-size businesses will get another year before they must comply, and large businesses will have a softer coverage target to meet next year. This delays any bad press or bad feelings engendered by the mandate beyond the 2014 election.

The administration claims legal wiggle room in the Internal Revenue Code, which allows the Treasury secretary to make “needful rules and regulations” about tax collection, including those “as may be necessary by reason of any alteration of law.” Treasury has used this provision to justify smoothing out the phase-in of other laws. But the administration is unilaterally making distinctions between large businesses and medium ones; the latter group, which will get hit hardest and scream loudest when the employer mandate kicks in, will be treated more leniently. The law is also explicit that the government should be enforcing penalties already; that’s the plainest interpretation of Congress’ intent. The administration shouldn’t dismiss that without exceptionally good reason. Fear of a midterm shellacking doesn’t qualify as good reason.

Studies have shown that the employer mandate isn’t key to insuring more people, so its implementation is not crucial to getting the whole ACA working. Rather, it’s mostly a revenue-raising measure to fund health-care reform; the first year-long delay cost the Treasury $12 billion. If there’s a less disruptive way to raise that money, Congress should repeal the employer mandate. Until then, the president should implement the law.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Only love can re-make your heart Was Jeb Bush right to insert love into a political debate? Such was the gist of a question I was asked on talk radio in response to the former Florida governor's assertion that some immigrants come into the United States illegally as an "act of love.

    April 18, 2014

  • Stop big tobacco from promoting e-cigarettes The tobacco industry is sharply raising spending on advertisements and other marketing for electronic cigarettes to try to make smoking glamorous again and hook a new generation of Americans on nicotine. We shouldn't let them get away with it. If adu

    April 18, 2014

  • A mental health checkup The country's inadequate mental health system gets the most attention after instances of mass violence of the sort that the nation has seen repeatedly over the past few months. Not all who commit these sorts of atrocities are mentally ill, but many h

    April 18, 2014

  • Your new password: sur**nder Have you changed your passwords since the security flaw known as Heartbleed emerged? Have you made sure they're all long, alphanumeric and randomized? Did you use a unique one for every site -- every bank account, every e- mail address, every music-s

    April 17, 2014

  • Hillary leans on Bill, Obama Recently Hillary Clinton gave what appeared at first to be a rambling and unfocused answer when asked to name the proudest achievement of her four years as Secretary of State. The short version is, she doesn't have one. But Clinton's words make a lot

    April 17, 2014

  • If GOP lost culture war, liberals did, too The "culture wars" have been a feature of American politics for almost a century, but recently a number of commentators have declared their end. Conservatives have lost, swept aside by a wave of enthusiasm for marriage equality and sexualized mass cu

    April 17, 2014

  • Cable guys too slow with Internet upgrade Remember the good-old 1990s, when you could make a pot of coffee while waiting for the screeching dial-up modem to connect to the Internet at a leisurely 9.6 kilobits per second? Two decades later, the average American household's connection is 1,000

    April 16, 2014

  • A May Day fable SPRINGFIELD -- Growing up during the Cold War, May Day always was a bit ominous. On the evening news, we'd watch tanks, missiles and soldiers march by the reviewing stands in Moscow, Beijing and Havana where stone-faced Communist leaders would look

    April 16, 2014

  • Display it proudly Editor: Drive past the demolition site of the old Good Samaritan Hospital on North 12th Street in Mt. Vernon and you will see the Stars and Stripes proudly flying from the flag pole. The hospital has been reduced to a pile of debris, but Old Glory st

    April 16, 2014

  • Got raw milk ... and salmonella? A refresher course in the work of Louis Pasteur should be mandatory for advocates of so-called raw milk. For anyone who missed fourth-grade science, Pasteur discovered that heating milk for a very brief time killed E. coli, salmonella, listeria, camp

    April 16, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks