Back in November of 2012, this observer filed a column whose title asked the question Will Obama end up repealing Obamacare himself? The seeds for repeal had been sewn by the very scope of the law: Almost no one in Congress had read all 2,700 pages, and those who had were struck by its unwieldiness. The administration’s repeated assurance that Americans would come to love the law once they got to know it was undone by Congressional Budget Office reports that the cost of health care under the law would rise.
A final nail in the coffin was the Supreme Court’s double-sided affirmation that “a tax” would be levied on consumers who chose not to buy health insurance.
In spite of the rising tide of public opinion in favor of repeal, the administration stubbornly stuck to its guns, enlisting the aid of high school students and librarians as surrogate insurance salesmen. That was until yesterday, when the White House announced it would be delaying the employer health care mandate for a full year. Assistant Treasury Secretary for Tax Policy, Mark Mazur, wrote at the department’s website that the measure was in response to employer demands for more time to gain familiarity with the provision.
That hasn’t prevented commentators on both sides of the spectrum from accusing the administration of playing politics, delaying an inevitable disaster from taking place till after the midterm elections. Rick Klein of ABC News writes:
Who would have guessed that the most damaging blow to the Obama health care law would come from inside the Obama administration? The pre-holiday announcement undercuts cavalier assurances that the law is ready to be implemented; one announcement that three years haven’t been enough to get a piece of it done within another six months takes care of that. Yes, this is listening to business concerns, and yes, it conveniently means any electoral fallout from an implemented law will be delayed for another president to deal with. But this is a blow in every conceivable way to the Obama administration — an admission that its signature legislative accomplishment isn’t ready for prime time, just as the law’s critics have been arguing, and arguing.
Former New York Times columnist Jeff Zeleny, now also of ABC News, is equally critical of the announcement and wary of its implications for the health care reform law:
President Obama will be on the final lap of his presidency by the time a key provision of his signature health care law takes effect. The administration’s decision to delay until 2015 the mandate for big employers validates an argument critics have been making for years: Obamacare was misguided and is collapsing under its own weight. It’s a victory for business groups that have been complaining they can’t meet the deadline. But is the administration opening the door to further delays? Republicans now have new ammunition to make their case. And the decision could affect another item on Obama’s legacy wish list: immigration. Health care is already a top example critics cite as a warning sign in the immigration debate. This could bolster their case.
As for the question of whether Obama himself will ultimately repeal the law, which has disastrous implications for his legacy, one might ask whether that process has already begun with yesterday’s announcement.