The Obama administration's announcement of a one-year delay in a key provision of the Affordable Care Act is being cheered by employer groups, which now have until 2015 to provide coverage for their workers or pay penalties. But those Americans who had looked forward to coverage have no cause for joy.
The delayed mandate affects employers with 50 or more full-time workers. Although this does not affect the establishment of state exchanges that will allow uninsured people to obtain health care coverage or the requirement that most Americans have insurance by January 2014, the delay sows uncertainty and confusion.
Certainly, there's something to be said for flexibility that allows businesses time to adjust, but the problem here is that the motives of all involved are suspect. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for example, has supported the repeal of Obamacare, as opponents disparagingly call it, and won't be mollified by this delay because it believes the law is fundamentally flawed.
For its part, the Obama administration has now pushed back the final implementation of health care reform beyond the midterm congressional elections, and it doesn't take a suspicious mind to guess at the political calculation. Already the undivided ranks of the law's Republican opponents see the postponement as vindication. Variations of "See, even the Obama administration believes the plan is unworkable" echo throughout the land.
In the meantime, those for whom the law was written and passed -- millions of uninsured Americans -- must wait another year for all its full force to come into play. The delay allows the health care pinata to hang on the tree for another year so that it can be whacked with renewed vigor.
Some recent history needs to be remembered. The passage of health care reform was a historic achievement that addressed an urgent need. The nation's health care system was not only broken but also hugely expensive. Republican opponents who now warn of Obamacare sticker shock were largely silent when the cost of premiums escalated every year.
If this delay allows the opposition to gather strength and kill the Affordable Care Act, the nation will return to the bad old days -- because, while Republicans talk a good game, they don't have a plan to cover the millions of Americans who have been without insurance. This is not their issue.
We hope the administration's flexibility works, but a delay that encourages opponents and discourages supporters doesn't inspire confidence.