Today the Obama Administration announced — through a blog posting, of all things — that the “employer mandate” aspect of the Affordable Care Act law, also known as “Obamacare,” will be delayed by a year.
The “employer mandate” provision is supposed to penalize employers with more than 50 employees that do not provide certain minimum health insurance coverage for employees. The provision was supposed to take effect in 2014, but now it will take effect in 2015. The one-year delay was announced in a blog posting by an official in the Treasury Department. The Obama Administration says the delay is the result of a “dialogue” with businesses about reporting requirements. The “individual mandate,” on the other hand, remains unchanged.
Of course, people are already questioning whether the delay was politically motivated, with the Administration hoping to avoid fallout from business resistance to the new law. My questions, however, are more fundamental. The Affordable Care Act is supposed to be a federal statute. How can the Administration simply delay the effect of the law through administrative fiat? What kind of law is it that can be delayed through a blog posting by some functionary in an administrative department?
For that matter, doesn’t it seem awfully questionable to announce something so economically significant through a Treasury Department blog posting? Is it possible that the Administration hoped that the announcement would escape any notice? What’s the White House press secretary for, if not to address this kind of issue, publicly and transparently?
Set aside your views about the Affordable Care Act for a minute. From a strict accountability standpoint, shouldn’t a decision affecting the implementation of a major, controversial statute be announced in a more open and honest way, in a context where the news media might be able to ask a question or two? It seems that way to me.