President Barack Obama delivered this pitch for his sweeping health care reform proposal to a joint session of Congress in September 2009: “We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick.”
Less than seven months later, the president signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which contains that legal limit he promised on insurance costs.
But on Tuesday, the news broke that the Obama administration has postponed the insurance-price cap’s implementation, scheduled for Jan. 1, 2014 by the letter of the law, to Jan. 1, 2015.
This is getting to be a bad habit. Even many of those who accurately warned that “Obamacare” was an unsustainable, incomprehensible mess are rightly troubled by the White House’s repeated, arbitrary overrides of the law’s language by executive fiat.
Of course, justified alarms about the law’s ill effects demand remedies.
And you need not be a cynic to suspect that putting those consequences off until after the 2014 midterm congressional elections should minimize their damage to the Democrats’ chances of recapturing the House and maintaining control of the Senate.
Still, these evasions of the law are on a remarkable scale. Since the landmark legislation passed without a single Republican vote in the House or Senate, the administration has granted more than 1,500 waivers from its mandates to assorted entities, including businesses, unions and state and municipal governments.
Last month, it postponed, also until 2015, the requirement on businesses with 50 or more employees to provide them with health insurance.
Last week, it even gave members of Congress and their staffs a sweet federal-funding deal to meet their obligations, under the law, for enrolling in the Obamacare insurance exchange program.
So when did the administration retreat on the 2014 deadline for the insurance-price limits — and why did it take so long for that pertinent fact to be detected?
Judge for yourself from this Tuesday New York Times dispatch: “The grace period has been outlined on the Labor Department’s Web site since February, but was obscured in a maze of legal and bureaucratic language that went largely unnoticed. When asked in recent days about the language — which appeared as an answer to one of 137 ‘frequently asked questions about Affordable Care Act implementation’ — department officials confirmed the policy.”
So what else about Obamacare has been “obscured in a maze of legal and bureaucratic language”?
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, during an Atlanta speech to state lawmakers and health officials from around the nation Monday, stressed that the Affordable Care Act is “the law of the land.”
So which law is that?
The 2,700-page behemoth signed by the president?
Or the fungible work in progress that the White House persists in altering without legislative approval?
And where does the president — and his party — really want to take U.S. health care?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., offered a candid clue last week on “Nevada Week in Review,” an educational television program.
Sen. Reid said: “What we’ve done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever.”
Asked if that means shifting to a system without private insurance (in other words, a single-payer system), Sen. Reid answered: “Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes.”
Meanwhile, who’s going to pay for the unaffordable Affordable Care Act — and when?
And even if you can figure out what that bewildering law says, good luck on figuring out which parts of it the Obama administration intends to obey