By Mike Lillis - 07/03/13 04:28 PM EDT
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday welcomed the delay of ObamaCare's insurance mandate for big businesses, saying the move will help companies adapt to the new requirement without sacrificing patient coverage.
Republicans and other critics of the 2010 healthcare law say the delay is evidence that the law is unworkable and should be scrapped altogether, but Pelosi said the move “will provide businesses affected by the responsibility requirement as much flexibility and transition time as possible in determining if their benefits meet the law’s requirements for minimum and affordable coverage.”
The remarks from Pelosi — who was instrumental in getting the law passed — are an early indication that Democrats will downplay the significance of the delay, even as some in the party are expressing concerns that implementation of the law's central components in January will haunt them in the midterm elections.
Tuesday's surprise announcement from the Treasury Department means that one of the most controversial provisions of the law — requiring companies with 50 or more full-time employees to offer healthcare coverage to their workers or face a financial penalty — won't set in until after those elections.
Republicans and other critics have howled that the mandate is a burden on small businesses that would kill existing jobs and discourage new hiring. They say the delay is indication that the entire law should be repealed.
“This announcement means even the Obama administration knows the 'train wreck' will only get worse,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday in a statement. “This is a clear acknowledgment that the law is unworkable, and it underscores the need to repeal the law and replace it with effective, patient-centered reforms.”
Pelosi views the delay differently. She's quick to note that most big employers already offer healthcare coverage to workers, and employees without those benefits will still be able to buy affordable coverage on soon-to-be-created healthcare exchanges, which remain on schedule for 2014.
“Soon, Americans will benefit from greater wellness and prevention, more choices and competition in the insurance market, and increased access to quality, affordable care,” she said. “As Americans celebrate the Fourth of July — the moment of our nation’s independence — we celebrate the Affordable Care Act as a source of health independence for America’s families and small businesses.”