GOP: Time to Delay Obamacare’s Individual Mandate

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The Obama administration’s announcement last week that it was delaying the implementation of the employer mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act by one year gave Republican lawmakers in Congress a new angle from which to criticize the health care reform bill.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, said at a press conference Tuesday that the House of Representatives would work on legislation this month to eliminate requirements for individuals. “I never thought I’d see the day when the president, the White House came down on the side of big business but left the American people out in the cold as far as this health-care mandate is concerned,” he said.

In his estimation, the president’s decision was unfair. “We ought to also remove this mandate from the individuals,” he continued. “Because it’s just not fair to sit here and impose on the people of this country this mandate while letting businesses off free.”

As originally written, Obamacare mandated that businesses with 50 or more full-time employees provide their workers with coverage or face penalties of as much as $3,000 per employee beginning in 2014. But that date has been pushed back until 2015.

In a statement posed to the Treasury Department’s blog Tuesday, officials explained that both the government and businesses needed more time to adjust to the changes. Mark Mazur, the Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, noted that by pushing back the deadline, the government would be able to simplify the new reporting requirements and employers would have time to adapt to the new systems.

So far, Republicans have been reluctant to draft any legislation that could be interpreted as an attempt to fix the emerging problems with Obamacare. Instead, House Republicans have made 37 attempts to repeal all or part of the health care law that was passed in March of 2010. Lawmakers have tried a series of legislative gimmicks — including procedural moves, budgeting provisions, and outright legislation — to take the law off the books. Now, Republicans are considering bringing two bills to the House floor next week in response to President Barack Obama’s announcement of the one-year delay, a senior GOP aide told The Wall Street Journal.

The first bill would codify the postponement, and it would immediately be followed by a similar delay in the implementation of the mandate for individuals to purchase health care insurance, the aide added.

Republican lawmakers have not come to a final decision regarding the two bills, but the GOP aide said there is “a strong level of enthusiasm” among them for bringing such bills to the floor. GOP leaders believe that such legislation would force House Democrats to make a choice: back Obamacare or vote to allow a similar delay for individuals and families.

“This is a clear acknowledgment that the law is unworkable,” said House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, after the postponement was announced. In a letter sent to the White House on Tuesday, he asked for further information regarding the decision to delay the employer mandate and asked why the administration wouldn’t do the same for individuals. “We agree with you that the burden was overwhelming for employers, but we also believe American families need the same relief,” the letter read.

As it now stands, the current individual mandate requires households and individuals to purchase insurance in 2014 or incur a fee of $95 or 1 percent of household income, whichever is greater.

“We’re for a permanent delay of this law,” Cantor concluded, noting that even the time delay would not be long enough to fix the fundamental flaws of the law.

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