Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Politics

Obama administration delays health law's employer mandate until 2015

WASHINGTON — In a significant setback for President Barack Obama's signature domestic initiative, the administration on Tuesday abruptly announced a one-year delay, until 2015, in his health care law's mandate that larger employers provide coverage for their workers or pay penalties. The decision postpones the effective date beyond next year's midterm elections.

Employer groups welcomed the news of the concession, which followed complaints from businesses and was posted late in the day on the White House and Treasury websites while the president was flying home from Africa. Republicans' gleeful reactions made clear that they would not cease to make repeal of Obamacare a campaign issue for the third straight election cycle.

While the postponement technically does not affect other central provisions of the law — in particular those establishing health-insurance marketplaces in the states, known as exchanges, where uninsured Americans can shop for policies — it throws into disarray the administration's effort to put those provisions into effect by Jan. 1.

"I am utterly astounded," said Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University and an advocate of the law. "It boggles the mind. This step could significantly reduce the number of uninsured people who will gain coverage in 2014."

Under the law, most Americans will be required to have insurance in January 2014, or they will be subject to tax penalties. The announcement Tuesday did not say anything about delaying that requirement or those penalties.

Administration officials sought to put the action in a positive light in the online announcements, and they emphasized that the existing insurance coverage of most Americans would not be affected.

"We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively," Mark J. Mazur, an assistant Treasury secretary, wrote on the department's website. "We recognize that the vast majority of businesses that will need to do this reporting already provide health insurance to their workers, and we want to make sure it is easy for others to do so."

The 2010 Affordable Care Act required employers with more than 50 full-time workers to offer them affordable health insurance starting next year or face fines. Some companies with payrolls just above that threshold said they would cut jobs or switch some full-time workers to part-time employment so they could avoid providing coverage.

Under the provisions to set up state-based marketplaces for coverage for uninsured Americans, subsidies are supposed to be available for lower- and middle-income people who qualify and are not insured through their employers.

By delaying the mandate for businesses and its reporting requirements, the government may be unable to confirm before 2015 whether employers are offering insurance to their employees, making it difficult for the exchanges to know who is entitled to subsidies to help pay for policies.

Enrollment in the exchanges is to begin Oct. 1, with insurance coverage taking effect Jan. 1. Yet even some supporters of the law dispute that the establishment of the health insurance exchanges is on schedule, especially because progress varies by state. Some Republican-led states are resisting the health care law and withholding resources for putting it into effect.

Employer groups were quick to applaud the delay. At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has strongly opposed the law, Randy Johnson, senior vice president of labor, immigration and employee benefits, said in a statement, "The administration has finally recognized the obvious — employers need more time and clarification of the rules of the road before implementing the employer mandate."

E. Neil Trautwein, a vice president of the National Retail Federation, said the delay "will provide employers and businesses more time to update their health care coverage without threat of arbitrary punishment." James A. Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, a lobby group for large employers, welcomed the "breathing room."

Democrats were all but silent on the news, but a spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, released a statement late Tuesday. "Both the administration and Senate Democrats have shown — and continue to show — a willingness to be flexible and work with all interested parties to make sure that implementation of the Affordable Care Act is as beneficial as possible to all involved," the spokesman, Adam Jentleson, said. "It is better to do this right than fast."

But Republicans immediately reacted with statements claiming vindication for their efforts to repeal the law altogether.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., called the administration action "a cynical political ploy to delay the coming train wreck associated with Obamacare until after the 2014 elections."

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader who faces re-election next year in Kentucky, said in a statement, "The fact remains that Obamacare needs to be repealed and replaced with common-sense reforms that actually lower costs for Americans."

Comments
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18