Changing Obamacare is change we can all believe in

In July, after dozens of reports of employers cutting jobs and hours, the Obama administration announced it would delay the Affordable Care Act employer mandate.

Last week, after hundreds of news stories about the president’s broken promise to allow Americans to keep their current insurance, the administration announced it would allow a change that would delay insurance cancellations for one year.

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The Obama administration should have anticipated the consequences of the employer mandate. It did know – for three years – that millions of Americans wouldn’t be able to keep their current health insurance.

Despite that knowledge, before and during the government shutdown, the White House fought any – any – change to the law.

Why? Why not admit, at the very least, the government needed some more time to figure out a way to avoid these terrible consequences?

Politics.

The White House’s posture was part of a win-at-all cost system that doesn’t seek to constructively explore workable policies, but relies on knee-jerk slogans and headline-grabbing inaccuracies to win the daily news cycle.

I wish the GOP’s strategy to repeal the law outright had been more practical, but it wasn’t.

My organization opposed the shutdown – and signed a letter against it – which put us, I suppose, on the Democrats’ side.

But we also acknowledge there are problems with the Affordable Care Act. Which, I guess, puts us on the Republican side.

In my more than 30 years in business and advocacy one thing I’ve learned is: whether you’re sitting across a boardroom table or an aisle in Congress, neither side is right all the time.

The Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI) can oppose the shutdown, but also advocate for ACA reform. And we will.

My organization was lucky: we were able to renew our current coverage; the new term will start on Dec. 1. However, if we’d waited 31 additional days and renewed on Jan. 1, we wouldn’t have been offered our current plan. We have a year, but our employees will lose their current coverage next year. An additional year is little comfort.

And millions of Americans, including employees at the companies MSCI represents, have not been even that fortunate.

Delaying the employer mandate was the correct move, but the administration must go further and eliminate it. No matter when the mandate takes effect, CEOs and Main Street small businessmen will face rising costs that will cause them to cut benefits or employees and their hours.

The Obama administration also should repeal the medical device tax, which will cut industry employment by an estimated 10 percent. While MSCI doesn’t represent that manufacturing segment, we understand the tax will impede this dynamic industry’s ability to dream up, execute and market life-saving innovations. All Americans will suffer that effect, including our employees.

The Affordable Care Act also contains this little-known tax: a $63 per employee fee insurance companies will pay for already-covered Americans. (That’s right: there’s a fine for not having insurance and a fee for having it.) The fee is supposed to last just three years (right: lawmakers will be fighting for an extension in 2017), but will cost $25 billion. And it will be passed on to workers in the form of higher premiums, which is why we – and unions – oppose it.

Finally, the Obama administration should also delay the individual mandate. Lawmakers reportedly can choose whether to force their own staff onto the individual exchanges. If lawmakers won’t make their own employees live under the law, why should small business owners and entrepreneurs who buy their own insurance? It’s unfair.

While MSCI still prefers to see a final fiscal year 2014 spending bill move through Congress “cleanly” – and will oppose any efforts to hold spending bills hostage to ACA repeal – it wants changes to this law.

We have a profoundly imperfect national healthcare law that may or may not live up to its name. The Affordable Care Act in its current form will not bring down costs or strengthen our system. It is also clear Republicans can’t fully repeal the law even if it is included with “must pass” legislation like a debt ceiling increase.

A month after the reopening of the government, and after several more weeks of bad ACA news, hopefully, those are two realities on which both Republicans and Democrats can agree.

Americans recognize it’s time for specific changes, why can’t our leaders?

Weidner is president and CEO of the Metals Service Center Institute, which represents more than 400 firms that manufacture and distribute metals and metal products.