White House Drafts Employers To Spin Obamacare



The Obama administration's announcement this week that it was delaying Obamacare's employer mandate for businesses with between 50 and 99 employees for an additional year included a catch: Any small business that wanted to take advantage of the delay would be required to certify to the Internal Revenue Service, under penalty of perjury, that no positions had been terminated in order to qualify for the exemption.

"It's simply so they don't game the system," a senior administration official told reporters when the requirement was announced.

That's one way to put it. Another would be that it's a way for the administration to give itself political cover. Still another would be that it's an implicit admission on the part of the administration that its rules create an incentive for employers near the 100-employee threshold to cut jobs.

The political reasoning behind the requirement is obvious. If anyone argues that the regulations surrounding the employer mandate cost jobs, the Obama administration can point to a stack of self-attestations in which employers say that the revised regulations did not cause them to terminate hours or positions. Yet the impulse to require employers to assert that Obamacare is not to blame seems to stem from the understanding that, in at least some cases, the rules do create an incentive to cut jobs in order to avoid the law's employer-coverage requirement for an additional year.

Basically, the Obama administration is creating a mechanism by which employers will be encouraged to spin for the White House. And it's not the first time something like that has happened. Health insurers were required to inform customers getting rebates as a result of Obamacare's medical-loss ratio rule that the health law was to credit (without, of course, mentioning the ways that the MLR rule created incentives to drive premiums higher). You expect the White House to hard sell its own policies, but the Obama administration seems to think it needs to co-opt businesses into doing the same.