As March 31 Deadline Approaches, Administration Quietly Guts Signature Health Law
With less than three weeks remaining before the end of the health care law’s first open enrollment period, the Obama administration continues to quietly abandon many of the law’s core elements.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board today explains, “last week the administration quietly excused millions of people from the requirement to purchase health insurance or else pay a tax penalty. This latest political reconstruction has received zero media notice, and the Health and Human Services Department didn’t think the details were worth discussing in a conference call, press materials or fact sheet. Instead the mandate suspension was buried in an unrelated rule that was meant to preserve some health plans that don’t comply with Obamacare benefit and redistribution mandates.” The administration made a similar delay in late December, but this new change now extends through 2016.
The House of Representatives voted in July 2013 on a bipartisan basis to delay the individual mandate and provide fairness for all Americans, but the White House threatened to veto this effort. Megan McCardle adds in Bloomberg View, “This is President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the program for which he will be remembered. And he doesn’t have the courage to defend it, even when he is no longer facing re-election. If he wont stand up for the hard choices his law requires, he can’t think that anyone else will either.”
Throughout the law’s troubled implementation, the administration made unilateral change after unilateral change as it attempted to hide some of the law’s most harmful and controversial effects. Many of these announcements have come late on Friday afternoon or before holidays, often will little fanfare as it tries to bury its failures when nobody is watching. Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee have repeatedly asked administration officials what further delays or changes to expect, and time and again they have offered no guidance.
Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Julie Bataille told reporters yesterday that the administration would not extend open enrollment beyond March 31: “We have no plans to extend the open enrollment period, and in fact we don’t have the statutory authority.” But lacking the statutory authority did not prevent the administration from pursuing its dozens of delays and changes over the last year. And considering Secretary Sebelius told Fox News on December 31 that she expected no more changes to the law, there is little reason to believe the administration could not change course again. In fact, open enrollment has already been extended for Massachusetts, and The Washington Post reports that more states are looking for extensions as well. If the past is any guide, the “most transparent administration in history” will surely try to slip it past the American people.