Implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act’s mandate to provide healthcare has been delayed for a year.
Late Tuesday, the Treasury Department released a statement delaying the plan to clear up confusion over the law. The Fiscal Times recently reported that misunderstandings of the plan were apparent on all sides. Employers weren’t prepared to offer plans, the IRS was unprepared to enforce the law and employees were not aware of their rights.
Apparently, the Treasury Department felt the same way.
"First, [the delay] will allow us to consider ways to simplify the new reporting requirements consistent with the law," Mark J. Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy at the Treasury Department, said in a post on the Treasury Department's blog. "Second, it will provide time to adapt health coverage and reporting systems while employers are moving toward making health coverage affordable and accessible for their employees."
The delay is likely to embolden Republican opposition to the bill. Critics charge that the law is too complex and no one, not even those in the Obama administration, know what’s in it. They have also charged that the country and the administration would not be prepared for implementation. The Treasury announcement supports that contention.
Now, a larger question looms: Might the president also be forced to delay the individual mandate? Many states are not prepared to open insurance exchanges; 31 have flat-out refused. And accountants have said they fear the IRS will not be adequately prepared for implementation.
Meanwhile, recent polls indicate that the plan’s popularity continues to fall. Nearly half of the country does not support it.
Whatever the fate of the individual mandate, the delay is a blow to the long-term hopes of the plan. Health-care reform is President Obama’s signature accomplishment. For the first time since it was passed, Obamacare’s future, and the legacy of its creator, are gravely in doubt.