Opinion

Obama forced to justify individual mandate

Could the Obama administration’s retreat from forcing businesses with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance coverage or face a fine mean the individual mandate – the most widely disliked part of a widely disliked law – is going to fall apart too?

Some analysts think it does. Top House Republicans think it should.

obamacareshoutIn a statement released Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., said it isn’t fair to let businesses off the hook while still keeping the mandate on individuals.

“The president owes the American people an answer: Why does he think businesses deserve a one year delay from the mandates in Obamacare, but middle-class families and hardworking Americans don’t?” the statement said, according to The Hill.

House Democrats like Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., of course, disagree, but even researchers that would be expected to support Obamacare are thinking the same thing.

“It does represent the inability of the administration to implement the law as planned,” said Robert Blendon of the Harvard School of Public Health – not exactly the Heritage Foundation when it comes to ideology – according to a Reuters report Wednesday.

“The big question now is whether they’re still going to require individuals to pay a penalty if they don’t obtain coverage, if they’re not going to require it of businesses.”

On Tuesday, the White House announced it was pushing back the deadline for businesses with 50 or more workers to provide insurance coverage, which health-reform critics called a sign the whole superstructure of the law is tottering.

And the linchpin of that superstructure is the individual mandate, which requires all those not currently insured to have health insurance by Jan. 1. Since most of the uninsured are young, relatively healthy people who are expected to represent an income source for health insurance, the mandate is crucial to enforce compliance.

If the mandate goes – it survived by a one-vote majority in the Supreme Court last June – Obamacare itself could go.

At least that’s how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sees it.

“It’s going to be really hard to impose the individual mandate without an employer mandate. And if you cut that, you could see the whole thing start to unravel,” Chamber Executive Director Katie Mahoney told Reuters.

We may already be seeing exactly that.

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