Do The Affordable Care Act Delays Mean Anything?

In recent months the Obama Administration has announced the postponement of a number of provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

In April, full implementation of the Small Business Health Option Program was delayed.  On July 2, the Administration stated that the employer penalty provisions of the Act would not be applied until 2015.  And, only a few days ago, the Department of Health and Human Services gave notice that still other provisions — in this case, dealing with health insurance verification and income reporting requirements for state health insurance exchanges — will be delayed.  The latter delay means that, in 2014, state exchanges will be allowed to accept an “attestation” of projected household income to determine whether the individual seeking insurance is eligible for certain tax credits and cost sharing reductions.

Do these delays mean anything?  Are they simply what we should expect when any brand-new federal program takes effect?  Or, do they signify something deeper and more significant?

In announcing these postponements, the Administration cited considerations like “complexities” and “operational barriers.”  That may simply be CYA bureaucratic jargon devised by a regulator who dropped the ball.  Or, it may mean that the health care and health insurance markets in our country are a lot more complicated than proponents of the Affordable Care Act thought.

I’ve always been skeptical of the bold promises made by the President and congressional advocates of the Affordable Care Act, so take this with a grain of salt — but it seems to me if straightforward things like income verification and employer insurance verification haven’t been resolved in the years since the statute was enacted, much more complicated provisions of the Act might be in even greater jeopardy.  I know that the Administration and regulators are confidently telling us that the system will work fine once it takes effect . . . but then these same people assured us that the provisions that have now been delayed would be readily achievable.  Why do we think the “complexities” and “operational barriers” that are supposedly preventing some requirements from taking effect will be resolved in a year’s time?

As I mentioned, I was not an advocate of the Affordable Care Act, but it is the law of the land and therefore I hope it works.  With health care and health insurance being such huge elements of our economy, heaven help us if it doesn’t.

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2 thoughts on “Do The Affordable Care Act Delays Mean Anything?

  1. I don’t believe it will work and I think they’re looking for a way out. For instance, enforcement of the individual mandate will be via a penalty paid as a federal tax liability but will not be subject to criminal penalties, liens or levies. What does that mean- absolutely nothing- why waste the ink?

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    • PS I don’t know what my political identity is, WB. I believe some of this current ambivalence is due to your influence, bolstered by scattered comments from Mike N. I could blame GWB but that’s so old school.

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