House votes to delay two health care mandates: Will it matter?

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to delay two provisions of the 2010 health care reforms on Wednesday. Though the bills are unlikely to pass in the Democratic-run Senate, the votes gave Obamacare opponents a chance to express frustrations with the reforms. 

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., center, and Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., right, walk to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote to delay the individual and employer mandates of President Barack Obama's signature health care law, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, July 17, 2013.

Staging a fresh assault on President Barack Obama's signature healthcare reform law, the Republican-led House of Representatives on Wednesday approved largely symbolic legislation to delay key coverage requirements.

The measures, the 38th and 39th House bills to take aim at the 2010 reforms known as Obamacare, would delay for a year the requirement that Americans obtain health insurance and would codify the Obama administration's recent decision to delay the mandate for larger employers to offer health coverage.

The White House's surprise announcement of the one-year employer delay this month sparked a new wave of Republican anger over the healthcare law that threatens to bleed into other issues, such as government spending legislation, in the next fiscal year.

Obama administration officials have insisted that the law's core provision, the requirement for uninsured Americans to obtain subsidized coverage through new online exchanges, will remain in place. Those with no coverage will face tax penalties starting in January.

The House voted 264-161 for the individual delay, and 251-174 in favor of the employer delay, with some Democrats joining the Republican effort.

Venting frustration 

The legislation stopped well short of previous efforts to fully repeal Obamacare, but gave Republicans a new chance to vent their frustration at the law and discredit it as the state-run insurance exchanges prepare to open in October.

"The delay of the employer mandate is the latest confirmation of the fatally flawed nature of Obamacare and the need to dismantle it," said Rep. John Kline, a Republican from Minnesota. "It isn't right to deny American families the same relief available to American businesses."

While the legislation faces a White House veto threat and is virtually certain to be blocked in the Democratic-controlled Senate, Republicans insist they will keep trying to kill Obamacare and keep it alive as a 2014 campaign issue.

They argue that the law's mandates will drive up healthcare costs, stunt job growth and cause businesses to cut back employee working hours to avoid the coverage requirements.

Many Democrats derided the votes as another political sideshow consuming the House's time and energy. They pointed to new health insurance pricing information released by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday as evidence that the law will reduce coverage costs.

Cuomo's report showed that many New York state residents who buy health insurance next year will most likely see their premiums cut by half.

"What we're hearing right now is the sound of Republican heart rates going up: Obamacare is coming," said Representative Jim McDermott, a Democrat from Washington state. "These last benefits are going to happen - like it or not - and worse, they're going to work."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Republicans were simply trying "to refight old battles than have been fought."

He said Obama will give a speech on Thursday touting the healthcare law's benefits, including the 8.5 million consumers who are receiving an average $100 rebate this summer from insurance companies. The rebates are due to a provision in the law that requires companies to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical care, rather than on administrative costs.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton and Caroline Humer; Editing by Stacey Joyce)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.