Obamacare’s Administrative Problems Were Apparent Before the Law Was Passed

credit: Barack Obama / Foter / CC BY-NC-SAcredit: Barack Obama / Foter / CC BY-NC-SALast week’s announcement that Obamacare’s employer mandate would be delayed by a year seems to have come as a surprise to many of the law’s public backers. But problems with the provision, and the employer reporting requirements that were delayed along with it, should not have come as a surprise. Nor should we put much stock in the administration’s claim that the delay is primarily a response to concerns about the law’s effect on business. The technical and administrative challenges posed by the law’s complex reporting and verification systems have been apparent for a long time—even before the law was passed.

As far back as October 2009, former Congressional Budget Office director Robert Reischauer could be found telling reporters that the health law’s employer requirements would be “administratively horrendously complex as well as quite intrusive,” inevitably resulting in administrative headaches for both exchanges and employers.  Reischauer said at the time that he supported some form of “employer responsibility” requirement, but he predicted that the provision, as written, would be “an immense hassle on the administrative front” and would result in a “rather large new administrative burden.” Large enough, it now appears, that the administration couldn’t get it completed in time.

Nor was last week’s announcement the first indication that the law’s actual implementation was in trouble. As National Journal notes, the signs that the law will not be implemented as originally envisioned have been apparent for months. “In April,” the NJ report says, “several consultants focusing on the new online marketplaces, known as exchanges, told National Journal that the idealized, seamless user experience initially envisioned under the Affordable Care Act was no longer possible, as the administration axed non-essential provisions that were too complex to implement in time.” The April report that refers to says that the “administration has also indicated that, in some states, information about which people are eligible to buy through the exchange (and with how much government help) won’t be instantly available.” That’s because the computer systems necessary to verify eligibility for subsidies were proving troublesome. Now we have an clearer idea about the extent of the trouble: The administration also announced last week that states building their own exchanges would not be required to verify income and health status information used to determine whether an individual can get subsidies.

Signs of technical trouble within the exchanges go back before then. In June of last year, the Government Accountability Office warned that the Internal Revenue Service had made only middling progress on readying the data systems necessary for the exchanges. And before that, in May of 2012, Politico reported that “even states that are solidly committed to pursuing an exchange are facing major logistical challenges in building the computer systems that will be able to handle enrollment when exchanges open” in 2014. “People fear that the technology piece is just not going to be quite there,” a Georgetown University health policy expert and former Maine insurance commissioner told the paper. Those fears turned out to be right.

The Obama administration has suggested that the delay is merely a response to concerns from businesses about the provision’s costs and effect on hiring, with an unnamed Treasury official telling The Wall Street Journal that the provision was delayed because it couldn’t adequately address concerns voiced by employers in the time given. Those concerns may have played some role in the decision to delay the employer mandate and some of its verification and reporting requirements. But the fundamental technical and administrative difficulties associated with the law predated most of the employer concerns. And as the same WSJ report dryly notes, the official excuse—that the administration has been "engaging in a dialogue with businesses" and has responded to their feedback—left unsaid the fact that when the announcement was made, "the federal government hadn't written key rules guiding employers, according to current and former administration officials, and computer systems that were supposed to run the program weren't operational." Given the history, and the operational context, the most likely explanation for the various delays is that so far the administration simply isn't able to make the law's technical administrative requirements work.  

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  • ||

    As far back as October 2009, former Congressional Budget Office director Robert Reischauer could be found telling reporters that the health law’s employer requirements would be “administratively horrendously complex as well as quite intrusive,” inevitably resulting in administrative headaches for both sexchanges and employers.

    That's comedy gold baby.

  • Swiss Servator - past LTC(ret)||

    Damn your faster typing!!!

  • prolefeed||

    Good to know what Peter Suderman is really thinking about while typing posts.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The writers of this abomination have little experience in the real world. They only know one side of the bureaucracy, with no idea the effect onerous regulation and reporting requirements has on private enterprise.

  • Ken Shultz||

    They only cared about the effects of passing the thing on Obama's reelection chances, and within its target group, the thing was wildly successful.

    It's not just that they don't understand what the effects of legislation like this are in the real world; it's that they don't care.

    They just care about the next election cycle.

  • Restoras||

    Hey, guys! Did you hear about the Cleveland Browns fan...oh, you did? You sure, bros? Well, in case you didn't...
    http://reason.com/24-7/2013/07.....m-to-let-h

  • Swiss Servator - past LTC(ret)||

    Wow, I wish word of this had gotten out earlier!

  • John||

    That was awesome. And I love it that the Browns had a sense of humor about it and gave everyone at the funeral jerseys.

  • Agammamon||

    It would have been hilarious if they sent some players to be pallbearers.

  • Swiss Servator - past LTC(ret)||

    "inevitably resulting in administrative headaches for both sexchanges and employers."

    I must have missed that part of the legislation!

  • Auric Demonocles||

    They had to pass it to find out what they got put it in.

  • Adam330||

    I'm going to make my prediction now that the exchange also won't be running as envisioned in 2015 or 2016.

  • creech||

    No, but Hillary will be elected in 2016 based on her unique ability to get it up and running as intended if only the evil Red Team can be defeated.

  • John||

    Don't you think it should be a woman's turn creech?

    Hillary 2016, giving stupid people another stupid reason to vote for President.

  • datcv||

    They're Ready for Hilary!!!! (TM)!!!1111

    Also, everything that went wrong was Obama's fault and they should have voted for Hilary in 2008.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Don't you think it should be a woman's turn creech?

    Hillary 2016, giving stupid people another stupid reason to vote for President.

    Unfortunately this is EXACTLY what is going to happen. It's TIME for a woman, therefore we will have one whether she has done anything besides provide cover for all of the important men in her life until now or not.

  • Seamus||

    Doesn't matter. In fact, from the progtard point of view, this is probably good. They'll argue that the only way to fix this clusterfuck is to move to single-payer, and they'll be a lot more able to sell it under the current circs than they were when there wasn't any legislation at all on the books.

  • John||

    That is what they think. The problem is that even with this train wreck, I don't see any polls that show any more appetite for single payer than there was before. And it is extremely unlikely the progs will ever see 60 votes in the Senate or there would be any money for it even if they did.

    My guess is that we will get a few incremental fixes passed by a coalition of RINOs and Democrats who are desperate to put some of the blame for this on the GOP. Obamacare will just be a long lasting open wound in American politics.

  • Rich||

    Obamacare will just be a long lasting open wound in American politics.

    Just hope that wound doesn't get treated with a "Hyper-Barry-ic" Chamber. 8-(

  • John||

    Maybe if we had a national media that had done its job rather then turning itself into a state run media to cheerlead for this thing, these facts would have been more known to the public and made a difference?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Why can't you accept Obama as your personal savior?

  • sarcasmic||

    He's our lord and savior. Get it right.
    http://www.realclearpolitics.c.....obama.html

  • Auric Demonocles||

    What could there possibly have been to report on on "We have to pass it to find out what's in it"?

  • John||

    And none of them will ever pay a single price for it. I am rooting so hard for the entire media establishment to go broke in the next few years.

    In a sane world a douchebag know nothing like Ezra Klein would have never been hired. Even in a moderately insane world, he would have been fired and basically out of public life after it became apparent what bullshit and lies he peddled over this. Instead, he is being rewarded for it. The only solution is for them all to go broke and something else grow to replace them.

  • sarcasmic||

    You kidding? If they go broke then they'll just get a bailout. Too big to fail and all that.

  • John||

    I think that is the plan. And they already are from the big leftist charities. The WAPO got a huge grant from the McArthur foundation to support "investigative reporting" or some such. The NYT bleeds more money than GM. I can't remember the last time it had a positive cash flow. It stays in business thanks to periodic influxes of cash by friendly Mexican billionaires and supportive lefties.

    They are at some point going to go to the Feds for a big bailout. And no doubt some GOP will be dumb enough to want to give it to them. But I doubt it will ever actually happen.

  • ||

    I have noted that the high-profile "we can't have a free press unless it's funded by the government" trial balloons mostly stopped getting floated. For now, anyways.

  • sarcasmic||

    Market failure!

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Less than 2% of employers are affected by the mandate.

  • sarcasmic||

    Fuck minorities, right?

  • Brian D||

    Assuming this is true: So?

  • John||

    God you are a lying piece of shit. 100% of employers are affected by the regulations requiring gold plated insurance coverage. And that of course will cause more and more of them to drop coverage and thus be affected by the mandate. And of course also cause them just make their employees part time and avoid it altogether.

  • sarcasmic||

    Nuh uh. According to NPR only 2% of employers with more than 50 employees do not offer some sort of health insurance. So only 2% are affected. NPR would never put any political spin on a story. They're like totally unbiased and stuff, you know?

  • John||

    WOw NPR and Shreek are mouthing the same talking points. It is almost like they get them from the same source or something. Progs do love central control.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Lying idiot.

    Employers can offer many types of insurance - not all "gold plated".

  • John||

    They can offer whatever they want provided it pays for birth control, has a low deductible, and covers every other think Sibilius thinks it should. And of course since they can't refuse to cover pre-existing conditions, the rates go up even more. Thus, the explosion of part time employment and the millions of people who have either lost or are about to lose health insurance over this.

    Shreek, you need to tell your handlers that they should send you to lie on another forum inhabited by the low information low IQ voters that Obama needs. People on here have IQs above room temperature and thus understand how stupid you are.

  • Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz||

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/th.....r-mandate/

    "Sure, it’s true that according to the latest Kaiser Employer Health Benefits Survey (2012), 94% of employers with 50-199 workers and 98% of firms with 200 or more workers already offer health benefits. These are consistent with the federal government’s Medical Expenditure Survey (MEPS) showing that 96.8% of large firms (defined as workers with 50 or more employees) offer health benefits.

    But that’s not equivalent to saying that the same fraction of workers at such firms have health coverage..."

  • robc||

    I have one employee right now (me) and Im affected, as my plan keeps changing to meet requirements of the ACA.

    What happened to "if I like my plan, I can keep it"?

  • sarcasmic||

    Nothing. If you like your plan, and it conforms to the new rules, then you can keep it. Otherwise it will have to change. But if it is already in conformance with the new rules, and you like it, then you can keep it. See? It wasn't a lie.

  • John||

    If you like your plan and Obama and the HHS do to, you can keep it.

  • Jordan||

    And every employer's insurance company is affected by the thousands of pages of new regulations. Try again.

  • Number 2||

    And come 2018, when Obama is safely out of office, comes the 40% excise tax on "Cadillac" plans. Except that by 2018, given typical increases in premiums, most health insurance plans will be "Cadillac" plans. Which means that employers will start cutting back on plan quality, which means that they run the risk of not providing the minimum level of coverage needed to avoid the "shared responsibility" tax....

  • The Late P Brooks||

    “several consultants focusing on the new online marketplaces, known as exchanges, told National Journal that the idealized, seamless user experience initially envisioned under the Affordable Care Act was no longer possible, as the administration axed non-essential provisions that were too complex to implement in time.”

    If by "no longer possible" you mean "was a complete fantasy from the get-go".

  • Agammamon||

    "Obamacare’s Administrative Problems Were Apparent Before the Law Was Passed"

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure most of us here were aware that government operation of the healthcare sector of the economy was going to turn out to be really difficult long before the bill was passed.

    I mean, if you need a real-world example of poorly run government healthcare then just look at the NHS.

  • Number 2||

    "Reinshauer said at the time that he supported some form of “employer responsibility” requirement"

    Oh really?

    Well I support a "Reischauer shared responsibility" requirement. 100% of his family income above minimum wage should be taxed to help defray the excessive cost of health care in this county. How about it, sir?

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    And now Obama is lecturing us that we are just ignorant:

    "People who suggest that there's anything unusual about the delaying of a deadline in the implementation of a complex and comprehensive law are deliberately sticking their heads in the sand or are just willfully ignorant about past precedent," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at a daily briefing. "It's not serious."

    In other words, delays and failures are not unusual, they are encountered in all government programs, and Liberarians who oppose ACA are ignorant for not realizing this.

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