House To Vote on ACA Employer, Individual Mandate Delays
On Wednesday, the House is scheduled to vote on two bills (HR 2667, HR 2668) that would delay the implementation of both the employer and individual mandates under the Affordable Care Act, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Cassata, AP/Sacramento Bee, 7/17)
Background, Boehner's Comments
Republican lawmakers have sensed an opportunity to delay the ACA's individual mandate following the Obama administration's decision last week to delay the employer mandate until 2015. Since the White House's announcement, House Republicans have adopted a populist tone, criticizing the White House for not also delaying the individual mandate (California Healthline, 7/12).
In a House floor speech on Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the ACA a "train wreck," saying, "You know it. I know it. And the American people know it. Even the president knows it. That's why he proposed delaying his mandate on employers." Boehner added, "But it's unfair to protect big businesses without giving the same relief to American families and small businesses."
Bill Details, House Minority Whip Comments
HR 2667 -- sponsored by Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) -- would codify the Obama administration's decision to delay the employer mandate for one year. Meanwhile, HR 2668 -- proposed by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.) -- would also delay the individual mandate until 2015 (AP/Sacramento Bee, 7/17).
The measures are expected to receive broad support from Republican lawmakers and will reveal whether any Democrats abandon their party's support of the ACA. Observers say that the votes are intended to force Democrats to go on record as opposing a delay for individuals while granting businesses a reprieve.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he believes "most Democrats will stick together" on the issue. He noted that Young's bill would undermine "protections to millions of people" and that Democrats believe the individual mandate should take effect as scheduled (Hollander, National Journal, 7/16).
Obama Threatens Veto
In a Statement of Administration Policy, the White House said Obama "strongly opposes" the bills (Howell, Washington Times, 7/16). The statement also called the employer mandate bill "unnecessary" and said the individual mandate bill would harm consumers.
"The [GOP] bills, taken together, would cost millions of hard-working middle class families the security of affordable health coverage and care they deserve," the statement said.
Obama also called on "Congress to stop fighting old political battles" and work together to implement the law (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 7/16).
CBO Issues Preliminary Cost Estimate on GOP Bills
However, CBO said that the House bill to delay the employer mandate would have no effect on CBO's baseline because the delay became part of the baseline after the administration announced its decision earlier this month.
According to "Healthwatch," most analysts expect the costs associated with the delay to be minimal. For example, the delay could cause the government to bring in less in employer penalties and could increase the cost of federal subsidies to help individuals purchase affordable coverage through the law's health insurance exchanges (Baker , "Healthwatch," The Hill, 7/16).
However, a preliminary cost estimate showed that the GOP's bill to delay the individual mandate would reduce the federal deficit, while causing insurance premiums to rise. CBO in 2011 estimated that the federal government would save about $282 billion if the individual mandate were repealed but that premiums would increase by 15% to 20% because healthier individuals would be less likely to purchase coverage (Baker , "Healthwatch," The Hill, 7/16).
Small Business Group To 'Score' GOP Bill Votes
On Tuesday, the National Federation of Independent Business announced that it would score lawmakers' votes on the GOP's bill to delay the individual mandate, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
The NFIB said it considers Wednesday's vote to be a "key vote" in determining its ratings of lawmakers' support of small businesses.
In a statement, NFIB Senior Vice President of Public Policy Susan Eckerly said, "Delaying implementation of the individual mandate alongside the employer mandate may provide members of Congress with time and opportunity to solve some of the law’s most grievous problems" (Baker , "Healthwatch," The Hill, 7/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.