For good or ill

If Obamacare is so great -- or so disastrous -- why put it off?

The Republican-controlled House Wednesday approved a one-year delay in the implementation of both the employer and individual insurance mandates under Obamacare.

The president has already agreed to delay the ominous employer mandate requiring businesses with 50-plus workers to provide workers health insurance or pay a fine. House Republicans also voted to delay the requirement on individual Americans.

But after years of fighting it and warning Americans about it in vain, you have to wonder if Republicans should instead insist that Obamacare be implemented on schedule. Why try to dismantle it when it will likely fall of its own corpulence anyway? Why put off the pain; why not take our bitter medicine now?

Although President Obama has agreed to delay the law’s mandates on businesses for a year, until 2015, its punitive effects on workers and its frightening financial effects are already being felt:

• A majority of Americans oppose the federal health care law in a recent Gallup Poll, with 42 percent saying it will make their families’ health care situation worse and only 22 percent saying better.

• Only 30 percent of businesses in a U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey say they think they’re ready for the law.

• Twenty-seven percent of businesses surveyed will cut workers’ hours to comply with the law; 24 percent will hire fewer people because of it; and 23 percent will replace full time employees with part-time workers to avoid fines under the law. That adds up to 74 percent, or nearly three-quarters of businesses, who say they will reduce jobs and hours because of Obamacare.

Most ironically, labor unions – which helped Obamacare become law – warned in a recent letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that Obamacare will “shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”

“When you and the President sought our support for the Affordable Care Act,” the letter says, “you pledged that if we liked the health plans we have now, we could keep them. Sadly, that promise is under threat ... We have been strong supporters of the notion that all Americans should have access to quality, affordable health care. We have also been strong supporters of you. In campaign after campaign we have put boots on the ground, gone door-to-door to get out the vote, run phone banks and raised money to secure this vision. Now this vision has come back to haunt us. ...

“The unintended consequences of the (Affordable Care Act) are severe. Perverse incentives are causing nightmare scenarios. First, the law creates an incentive for employers to keep employees’ work hours below 30 hours a week. Numerous employers have begun to cut workers’ hours to avoid this obligation, and many of them are doing so openly. The impact is two-fold: fewer hours means less pay while also losing our current health benefits.”

It’s interesting that the unions are waking up now. But at least they’re waking up.

“It was obvious in 2009 that Obamacare’s employer mandate would incentivize this shift,” writes Forbes magazine contributor Avik Roy. “Why didn’t labor unions fight it back then?”

“The law as it stands will hurt millions of Americans,” the union letter says.

Concern over Obamacare actually is helping Mr. Obama – by giving him an excuse to put the law’s worst pain off until after the 2014 midterm elections. He’s no doubt hoping and happy to take the issue off the campaign agenda next year.

You have to wonder whether Republicans should agree. If the law is going to be a disaster, then why put it off?

We also don’t think the Obama administration has the legal authority to unilaterally delay its scheduled implementation. The law is the law, and the president is tasked with “faithfully executing” it.

Of course, this administration has shown a zeal for picking and choosing which laws it wants to enforce, including immigration laws.

Besides, if Obamacare is such a great idea, why put it off?

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