Business Groups, Consumer Advocates, Politicians, Policy Makers React To Mandate Decision

Opponents of the federal health law, especially business groups and conservatives, were quick to praise the decision by the Obama administration to delay enforcing the employer mandate provision by one year, until 2015. Some supporters of the law said the decision would not create major problems.

Here is a roundup of some of the statements and edited quotes from interviews within the first few hours of the announcement.

INDUSTRY

James A. Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, which represents private employers: “We applaud the Obama Administration’s decision to delay until 2015 employers’ reporting requirements, and potential employer penalty payments under the Affordable Care Act. This provides vital breathing room to implement the law in a more thoughtful and administrable way.”

Neil Trautwein, vice president, National Retail Federation: “This one year delay will provide employers and businesses more time to update their health care coverage without threat of arbitrary punishment. The National Retail Federation has worked hard to engage and educate our diverse membership on the upcoming ACA requirements and consistently and empathetically called on the Administration to delay these specific regulations. We appreciate the Administration’s recognition of employer concerns and hope it will allow for greater flexibility in the future.” 

Amanda Austin, Director of Federal Public Policy, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB): “This is simply the latest evidence that implementation of this terrible law is going to be difficult if not impossible, and the burden is going to fall on the people who create American jobs. Temporary relief is small consolation. We need a permanent fix to this provision to provide long term relief for small employers.”

Randy Johnson, senior vice president, U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “The administration has finally recognized the obvious – employers need more time and clarification of the rules of the road before implementing the employer mandate. The Chamber has testified numerous times about the problems with the mandate, and we applaud the administration’s step to delay this provision. We will continue to work to alleviate this and other problems with ObamaCare.”

CAPITOL HILL

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.:  “Delaying the employer mandate is a clear admission by the Administration that the health care law is unaffordable, unworkable and unpopular. It’s also a cynical political ploy to delay the coming train wreck associated with Obamacare until after the 2014 elections. Every American should have freedom, flexibility and choice when it comes to their health care. No American should have to live under the mandate of Obamacare. We need to repeal this failed law and replace it with a plan that helps all Americans get good, affordable health care.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.: “Obamacare costs too much and it isn’t working the way the administration promised. And while the White House seems to slowly be admitting what Americans already know, and what I hear consistently in my travels around Kentucky regarding the regulatory burden on employers, the fact remains that Obamacare needs to be repealed and replaced with common-sense reforms that actually lower costs for Americans.”

Adam Jentleson, spokesman for Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid: “Flexibility is a good thing. … Both the administration and Senate Democrats have shown — and continue to show — a willingness to be flexible and work with all interested parties to make sure that implementation of the Affordable Care Act is as beneficial as possible to all involved. It is better to do this right than fast.”

PUBLIC POLICY ORGANIZATIONS

Ron Pollack, executive director, Families USA: “I don’t think it will have a major impact on expanding health coverage. … The decision I think will result in some people not getting coverage who would have received coverage if the employer responsibility provision had not been delayed. There could be a number of workers unaware of their opportunity to go into the marketplace and get a subsidy. It makes it less likely that people will know about it so that could be a problem.”

Chris Jacobs, senior policy analyst, The Heritage Foundation: “The idea that selectively enforcing one provision of the law could ‘solve’ all the problems inherent in Obamacare is absurd on its face. In fact, the Administration’s position raises more questions than it answers: If the employer mandate will prove so devastating to businesses that it can’t be enforced in 2014 — following three years of implementation work — why should it be enforced at all? Will delaying implementation of the employer mandate encourage more firms to drop coverage entirely and dump their workers on to Exchanges, raising the cost of taxpayer-funded subsidies by trillions?”

Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation): “I think the practical effect on how people will get health insurance next year will be quite modest. And, it will make for a smoother implementation of the health reform law, giving employers time to be more deliberative in how they come into compliance, especially for part-time and temporary workers. I’d say the biggest risk of unintended consequences would be if people over-generalize from this decision to delay one part of the law. There have been challenges in implementing the ACA, and no doubt there will be more. But this decision doesn’t mean that other parts of the law are necessarily unworkable or not ready.”

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director, Congressional Budget Office and now president of American Action Forum: “The policy implications are fairly straightforward. Essentially for calendar 2014 the act of dropping coverage and dumping employees into the exchanges is on sale. Drop and dump, but no penalty. Accelerating the rush of employers to the exits is bad news for taxpayers. At a minimum, the federal revenue from fines is gone. More realistically, the costs of already-bloated insurance subsidies will escalate and the red ink will rise.”

Judy Solomon, vice president, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “It will not have a big impact–most employers already offer coverage. There was a lot of roiling about the rules and this will provide some stability in the first year. Employers will still have to give their workers information on whether their coverage meets minimum rules and affordability provisions.”