We learned overnight that another provision of the Affordable Care Act has been delayed by a year, which the New York Times said is “likely to fuel continuing Republican efforts this fall to discredit the president’s health care law.”
Well, maybe, but before anyone pounces on this as proof of “Obamacare” trouble, consider some of the relevant details.
First, let’s consider what exactly has happened here. The health care law limits how much consumers can be expected to cover in out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles and co-pays, but officials “have granted a one-year grace period to some insurers.” And why did this happen? Ezra Klein had a good piece on this:
[W]hen the Obama administration went to implement the rule, it found it wasn’t going to be that easy. Some insurers and employers lack the capacity to keep track of an individual’s out-of-pocket health costs. They often use different companies to administer medical benefits and pharmaceutical benefits – and those companies’ computer systems don’t speak to each other. Implementing the rule would require upgrading those systems – and that takes time.
And so, officials have the flexibility to give themselves more time to get this right. For affected consumers, this may be discouraging, but it’s a minor provision that applies to a fairly small number of people. For that matter, it’s not like the measure has been repealed – this is only a one-year delay.
But take a look at the faux-outrage from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio): “Once again the president is giving a break to big businesses struggling with his health care law while individuals and families unfairly remain stuck under its mandates. This report is just the latest evidence that the law is too costly and too complex to work – and that it’s not being implemented fairly.”
There’s a problem with the Republican line that Boehner may not fully appreciate.
For one thing, it’s more than a little ironic to hear the Republican Speaker whining about “giving a break to big businesses.” For another, a one-year delay in an obscure provision affecting very few people is not proof that the law is “too costly.” That doesn’t even make any sense.
But even if we put that aside, there’s a more important problem: Republicans don’t get to complain about delays in Obamacare consumer protections because Republicans are trying to eliminate all Obamacare consumer protections.
The GOP pushback is, for lack of a better word, nuts. Much of the public isn’t aware of this, the Affordable Care Act offers expansive consumer protections. HHS posted a list, but the provisions are probably familiar to those who’ve even passively followed the debate: protections for those pre-existing conditions, coverage for young adults under 26, eliminating annual and lifetime caps, scrutiny of premium increases, medical-loss ratio, free preventive care, and on and on.
John Boehner has held dozens of votes to eliminate all of these consumer protections. If he and his party have their way, every new benefit, including those millions of Americans already enjoy, would disappear entirely.
So maybe GOP lawmakers should think twice before boasting about today’s news?