WASHINGTON — A Colorado House Republican has asked the Obama administration to explain its delay until 2015 of a key provision of the new health care law.
Rep. Cory Gardner of Yuma signed his name to two letters that members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent Wednesday to two top Obama cabinet officials about the employer mandate of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.
The letter requests that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius turn over documents and information about the administration’s decision to delay its implementation of the mandate for another year.
“Despite delays and missed deadlines, administration officials had repeatedly testified before Congress that they were still on schedule to implement the law. Yesterday, they admitted that wasn’t the case, and it’s clear we have no idea of the full scope of delays and disarray that may be coming,” the signatories wrote.
The two letters quote a June 26 story from the Washington Examiner in which Secretary Sebelius vowed the administration was ready to carry out key parts of the health care. “I want to be clear. We are ready to go October 1,” she said.
Sebelius’ prediction belied a nonpartisan watchdog’s report that found the Obama administration was “behind schedule” in implementing some state-based small business health exchanges. On June 19, the General Accountability Office concluded that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and states had made “progress in establishing (small business health options programs), although many activities remain to be completed and some were behind schedule.”
A Treasury Department spokesperson said the Treasury officials are reviewing the July 3 letter from members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
On Tuesday, the White House announced that employers with 50 or more full-time employees can wait until 2015 to fulfill the requirement that they provide their workers with health-care insurance or pay a fine of $2,000 per worker.
The National Retail Federation praised the administration’s decision. “This one-year delay will provide employers and businesses more time to update their health-care coverage without threat of arbitrary punishment,” the organization wrote in a statement.
Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) suggested the administration’s delay was symptomatic of the health-care law’s dysfunction and called for the law to be scrapped and replaced.
“Even the White House can’t figure how to move forward on this train wreck … Why stop there? Let’s indefinitely delay everything by repealing it and replacing it with a market-drive approach that encourages competition and empowers states …” Tipton said in a statement.
Fourteen of the 31 Republicans and no Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee signed the letter. Congress has been on recess since June 28 and will return next week.
The results of a March 22-25 poll from Princeton Survey Research Associates found the individual mandate remains the most unpopular provision of the health care law. Sixty-six percent said they do not think the federal government should “be able to require all Americans to obtain health insurance or else pay a fine.”
The poll of 1,000 respondents, commissioned by United Technologies and National Journal, was consistent with the results from other surveys about the law.
Meanwhile, Republican leaders in the House and Senate are examining if the administration possesses the authority to delay full implementation of the law without getting approval from Congress.
Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said, “It is unclear that (the president) has the authority to do this without Congress.”
A Treasury Department spokesperson said the Internal Revenue Service’s code gives the administration the authority to carry out the law as it sees fit.
A House Republican official agreed the administration can change the dates of implementing the law without Congressional approval. Getting approval from Congress would mean the Obama administration would need to pass the change through not only the Democratic-controlled Senate but also the Republican-controlled House.
As Washington bickered over details of the law, a business official in Colorado said small businesses are struggling to grasp the maze of requirements, fees, and credits.
“I think people in Colorado are getting it, but it’s still complicated,” Kate Horle, spokeswoman for the Denver Metropolitan Small Business Development Center, which informs businesses about the details of the law.