Another July 4 piece by David Nather offered more insight into White House think and illustrated what it described as “just one more piece of evidence that the administration is perfectly willing to bend the rules for some powerful interests—a welcome invitation for other players to raise their hands in the coming months.” Who may be next in line to get a reprieve? Nather fingered the hospitals which are worried the delay might be troubling for those workers who won’t get coverage from their employers until 2015. Hospitals have troubles of their own. You see, they are facing a cut in payments to cover the cost of treating the uninsured. The healthcare reform law assumed that with more of the uninsured covered, hospitals would have less charity care and fewer collection headaches. So crafters of the law eliminated some extra payments to some hospitals that cared for the poor. What’s the hospitals’ favored solution to these potential cuts? Why, a delay, of course.
On July 3, Nather’s colleague Alex Isenstadt tackled the politics of postponing the mandate and outlined what the GOP and the Dems think they can get out of this unexpected turn in the Obamacare saga. Basically, each sees an advantage. Isenstadt reported that the delay “denies Republicans powerful anecdotes they can use against the Democrats.” Think: restaurant owner, eking out a living in a tiny town, laying off a couple of dish washers. Brad Todd, a Republican media consultant, told Isenstadt that the stumbles and delays in implementing Obamacare—and there have been a number of them—are “the gift that just keeps on giving.” That’s exactly what Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said right before passage of the Affordable Care Act, when Anthem Blue Cross—a subsidiary of the giant insurer, WellPoint—raised rates 39 percent in California. That increase gave the pols one more reason to push the bill toward passage. Some Dems, on the other hand, see a “distinct upside in the delay,” per Politico. That is, they might avoid talking about healthcare reform (or, at least, the employer mandate) in the mid-term elections. Still, the politics of delay breed uncertainty, which is unsettling. “It’s never fun for us to have to deal with the unknown,” one Democratic strategist told Politico.
One thing that is known: the healthcare reform story will continue to be—for reporters, too—the gift that just keeps on giving. And for this latest plot twist, Politico rose to the occasion with its coverage.
Follow @USProjectCJR for more posts from this author and the rest of the United States Project team.