After years of critics predicting that ObamaCare was too cumbersome and intrusive to implement without causing major dislocations for the American economy and workers, that opinion was finally confirmed by what we in the media would, in another context, probably term a highly placed government source: the Obama administration. Yesterday afternoon’s announcement that implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to require businesses with more than 50 employees to offer them health insurance or face crippling fines will be put off for a full year until 2015 rather than being rolled out in January 2014 is the first official signal that even the White House is now aware that ObamaCare is a disaster that can only be managed rather than averted. Though the administration says the rest of the president’s signature health care plan—including the individual mandate to buy insurance and the creation of state insurance exchanges—will still be put into effect on schedule, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that even its supporters are coming to grips with the fact that the law is a mess.
It should be remembered that the original schedule for ObamaCare implementation was wisely crafted with an eye on the president’s reelection. Though passed in 2010, the law was not to be put into effect until after President Obama was safely reelected in 2012, meaning that the devastating impact on employment and on the cost of insurance for many Americans was not an issue last year. Instead, Obama was able to claim that he had merely pushed for a measure that would ensure more people were insured without having to be held accountable for the impact this system had on everyone else. The same political motivation appears to be behind the decision to put off the business mandate since a postponement will make it harder for Republican critics to claim that ObamaCare is sinking the economy and causing layoffs during next year’s midterm elections.