GOP pushes to formalize, expand employer mandate delay

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Despite delaying for a year the health insurance mandate for large employers, the Obama administration is opposing two Republican-backed bills that would make the administrative move law and expand the delay to individuals and the penalties for noncompliance.

The Office of Management and Budget said in a statement (.pdf) that President Barack Obama would veto the bills, HR 2667 and HR 2668.

The statement called the employer mandate delay, HR 2667, "unnecessary." It also said the second bill, delaying the individual insurance mandate, would raise insurance premiums, increase the number of uninsured Americans, and undermine key portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

"Rather than attempting once again to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which the House has tried nearly 40 times, it's time for the Congress to stop fighting old political battles and join the President in an agenda focused on providing greater economic opportunity and security for middle class families and all those working to get into the middle class," the statement read.

Although the OMB contended the employer mandate delay bill was unnecessary, the Washington Examiner reported that some Republicans worried whether the administration had the legal authority to do so. The wording in the ACA states that the mandate "shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013," the paper noted. The administration action pushed the compliance date to 2015.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Tuesday that average Americans deserved to have the individual mandate delayed because the administration had given a break to "big business," the Washington Times reported.

The Associated Press, meanwhile, questioned whether the delayed mandate for large employers would make it easier for individuals to lie about having insurance and avoid paying a penalty. Without the validation of the employer mandate, there's no simple way to verify insurance status, the AP suggested.

''If Americans begin to figure out that the individual requirement is toothless for 2014 ... younger, healthier uninsured people will stay away in droves,'' Edward Fensholt, director of compliance services for the consulting firm Lockton Companies, told the AP. That could cause premiums in the new health insurance exchanges to rise, he said.

For more:
- see the OMB statement (.pdf)
- read the Washington Examiner article
- here's the Washington Times article
- check out the AP article (via the Boston Globe)

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