Obamacare Provision Delayed: What Does Postponement Mean for Health Care Politics?

By: CBS News Email
By: CBS News Email

(CBS News) The delay of a key provision in President Obama's health-care law is being called a major setback for the president's signature issue.

The controversial provision that requires companies with more than 50 employees to provide coverage or face fines is being delayed by a year. The rule is now on hold until 2015 - after the 2014 midterm elections.

The news came while the president was flying back from Africa to Washington. It's a major concession in what is considered the president's signature achievement.

Posted with no fanfare on the White House website, the administration pushed back by one year the requirement that businesses with more than 50 workers provide health-care coverage or pay fines of $2,000 per employee.

The website announcement said, "We have listened to your feedback. And we are taking action."

The decision marks a shift in the official line on health care, which the president himself stated recently. He said in San Jose, Calif., on June 7, "I think it's important to acknowledge this is working the way it's supposed to."

The concerns that the health-care law was going to hurt workers and the economy were widespread. Some small business owners said they would lay off workers so they had less than the 50 employees that brought them under the new law.

Even business owners who support health-care reform were sounding the alarm.

Earlier this year, CBS News talked to one of those small business owners, Hans Rockenwagner, who runs a bakery in California. Rockenwagner said then, "We want to do the right thing. It just seems that the whole plan was maybe a little hastily put together."

With next year's midterm elections looming, that kind of feedback troubled leading Democrats like Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, who staked a lot of political capital on the law. He said, "I just see a huge train wreck coming down."

On Tuesday night, Republicans who remain staunchly opposed to the law, which passed without a single GOP vote, said the announcement was vindication. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, "Even the Obama administration knows the 'train wreck' will only get worse."

CBS News' Jan Crawford added on "CBS This Morning," "And in another sign of trouble the White House is trying to get the NFL on board to educate people in the upcoming fall about health-care exchanges, which they are hoping to encourage participation in if this whole thing is going to work. But the NFL said over the weekend that it wants nothing to do with this political football."

For more analysis on the provision postponement, "CTM" turned to CBS News political director John Dickerson. He said, "As a practical matter, more than 90 percent of the companies affected provide insurance to their employees anyway, and also as part of the president's plan the Medicaid provision and the other parts of the plan go forward, so as a practical matter that's the situation.

"As a political matter, this is not good," he said. "It sort of contributes to the feeling that the Affordable Care Act is a jalopy they're trying to roll out of the driveway here at barely operational for the president. That's not good. The White House made the decision, though, take the pain now, before the July Fourth weekend, rather than have all of these stories over the next year of companies who were laying off workers or having such a hard time implementing this."


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