Unlimited Access. Try it Today! Your First 10 Days Always $0.99
News Opinion Op-Eds

Delay in ACA's employer mandate nothing to celebrate

The glee with which Republicans greeted the delay in the employer coverage provision of the Affordable Care Act is heartless. Although it is politically motivated, such reveling will prove to be a political obstacle to Republican election chances in 2014. President Barack Obama's health care law is not going away. A groundswell of public opinion will welcome the reforms now under way to help correct the fundamental inequities in America's health care system.

Celebrating the temporary delay in implementation of the ACA as a harbinger of the law's end callously ignores the many Americans whose health is suffering from lack of coverage for payment. For another year, those who cannot afford expensive insurance premiums and who are too poor to be required to pay the mandate will pay nothing — and just hope they do not get sick (or sicker). The structure of the ACA depends partly on ensuring that employer coverage continues to play a role. But businesses, complaining about the new reporting requirements and penalty alternatives to employee coverage, are threatening to opt instead for temporary employees working less than the 30 hours that would qualify them for employer coverage. And many Republican-run states have delayed the new health care exchanges with their premium support for those with low incomes.

So, although this delay affects a relatively small number, we have poor people making less and getting less coverage for their health care. It seems a bit much for a politician to be joyful about that.

But hear them carp and crow: Sen. John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, called the administration action "a cynical political ploy to delay — until after the 2014 elections." Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the fact remains that Obamacare needs to be repealed. As reported by Politico's Brett Norman and Jennifer Haberkorn, House Speaker John Boehner's press secretary, Brendan Buck, tweeted simply: "Obamacare. Such a train wreck." "Absolutely thrilled by #ObamaCare delay," Republican operative Brad Dayspring tweeted. "Will help #GOP candidates across the board in 2014. Debate will be a repeat of 2010."

"Employers need more time and clarification of the rules of the road before implementing the employer mandate," Randy Johnson of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reportedly emailed. But sympathy with the businesses that must adapt to the new law is misplaced. True, some final details from the Department of Health and Human Services were delayed, but there was no secret about it. Companies had just under four years to prepare. Many businesses took a chance that the Republican reassurances against needing to comply were accurate, and now that implementation of the law is a reality we hear these belated declarations about how little time they have.

That it will be a "replay of 2010" may be partly right, but Americans now can envision a doctor for every family. We are no longer misled by intemperate ranting against "Obamacare." And remember what happened after 2010: a second term for President Obama, a gridlocked House and conservatives blustering that the problem was not the message, it was the packaging? Approval and disapproval of the law remain about split in Kaiser polls, in spite of a massive conservative misinformation campaign. And many of the 40 percent who don't realize that the law is in force will become knowledgable supporters in early 2014 when they suddenly can get health insurance.

People will understand the necessity of this reform. That was the lesson from 2010, and if the same arguments bubble up again, they will only strengthen those candidates in 2014 who stand for sensible public responsibility instead of callous partiality to destructive rhetoric.

The request for this delay exemplifies the needless administrative complexity required by the health care insurance business. Simplification to a single federal payment source would save lives and money. The Supreme Court has cleared the way, at least in concept, for increased federal health care taxation. Although Sen. Max Baucus triumphantly dismissed single payer as "off the table" in 2009, given these unfolding realities it might be welcomed back soon.

Dr. James Burdick, a professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, had a career as a transplant surgeon and was director of the Division of Transplantation in the Department of Health and Human Services. A frequent op-ed contributor on health care issues, he is writing a book detailing his doctors' plan for health reform. His email is jburdic1@jhmi.edu.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • The Clinton email scandal: a double standard?
    The Clinton email scandal: a double standard?

    Underpinning the coverage of the Hillary Clinton email scandal is a double standard: She is being pilloried for email practices that are widely used throughout government from local school districts up to the federal level, from junior up to senior administrators and from many past as well as...

  • Kids don't belong in adult jails
    Kids don't belong in adult jails

    When I first visited the Baltimore City Detention Center in 1999, I found an archaic, decaying facility that held people in grim cells with no direct natural light. The detention center held many children who were charged as adults, and they suffered some of the worst abuses — including...

  • Online poker: Deal me in
    Online poker: Deal me in

    We don't outlaw cars just because people have accidents. Rather, we have automotive safety standards, rules of the road and consequences for reckless driving. Similarly, online poker should not be illegal just because there are computer security concerns. Rather, gaming can be regulated and...

  • Liquor inspectors who are afraid of bars?
    Liquor inspectors who are afraid of bars?

    No, it was not The Onion that reported last week that all eight of Baltimore's full-time liquor license inspectors signed a letter saying they are afraid to go to bars at night. That actually happened. It seems that the new sheriffs at the Baltimore Liquor Board have the crazy idea that...

  • What lurks in the shadowy corners of the Internet
    What lurks in the shadowy corners of the Internet

    Ever heard of "doxxing" or "revenge porn"? How about the names Violentacrez or Craig Brittain?

  • Respect the office, if not the man
    Respect the office, if not the man

    I am no fan of President Barack Obama. I have been openly critical of him, particularly of his foreign policy. I think he has led this country in the wrong direction, both when he could reign unopposed during his first two years backed by a full Democratic majority and when we, Republicans, let...

Comments
Loading