Michael Tanner
The Obama administration and its various apologists in the media have long since elevated excuse making to something of an art form. This is, after all, an administration that once blamed high unemployment rates on ATM machines. Even by those standards, however, the excuses surrounding the administration’s decision to delay implementation of Obamacare’s employer mandate rise to imaginative new heights.

Among them:

It really wasn’t important anyway.

Obamacare supporters were quick to suggest that the employer mandate was such a minor part of the law that delaying it was all but meaningless. White House spokesman Jay Carney explained it this way: “Numerous experts agree on this matter that the decision to postpone this provision of the Affordable Care Act will have no significant impact on implementation overall of the Affordable Care Act.”

Those experts included Jonathan Chait of The New Republic, who insisted that “the employer mandate that the Obama administration is delaying is not a central part of the law.” Likewise, Noam Levey wrote in the Los Angeles Times that “the so-called employer mandate is not as central to the law as other provisions.” And the Washington Post editorialized that delaying the mandate “is no policy disaster, and it certainly doesn’t indict the whole law.”

If the provision is so unimportant, one might wonder why it was included in the law in the first place, given its potential for reducing employment. Then again, the Congressional Budget Office expects this provision to generate $140 billion in fines by 2023, so perhaps it’s not as negligible as is being portrayed.

Those claiming that the employer mandate’s impact is minor point out that 94 percent of American companies currently have fewer than 50 employees and therefore would not have fallen under the mandate anyway. And the remaining 6 percent of businesses, which employ the vast majority of American workers, generally provide health insurance already.

Michael Tanner

Michael D. Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, heading research into a variety of domestic policies with particular emphasis on health care reform, welfare policy, and Social Security. His most recent white paper, "Bad Medicine: A Guide to the Real Costs and Consequences of the New Health Care Law," provides a detailed examination of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and what it means to taxpayers, workers, physicians, and patients.


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