By Julian Hattem and Ben Goad - 11/14/13 05:55 PM EST
Critics are jumping on President Obama for unilaterally delaying requirements for insurance plans under ObamaCare.
Obama on Thursday said insurance companies would be able to continue to offer health insurance policies that would otherwise have been canceled under the rules of the Affordable Care Act.
Conservative groups and lawmakers pounced on the latest delay, with some contending the president is overstepping his authority.
“Obama isn’t a one-man Congress,” Tom Fitton, the president of the conservative-leaning Judicial Watch, said in a statement to The Hill. “Only Congress can rewrite the Affordable Care Act. This power grab is bound to be resisted in the courts.”
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the president's announcement was a political reaction meant to deflect blame.
“This problem cannot be papered over by another ream of Washington regulations,” Boehner said.
Obama’s action comes amid mounting concerns about the law’s implementation, with increasing criticism coming from within his own party. In a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, House Democrats raked administration officials over the coals for the bungled launch.
“Now, one day after getting an earful from panicked House and Senate Democrats, the president is bypassing Congress and taking matters into his own hands,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Obama’s action drew praise from consumer and labor groups, who called it the right move, considering Republican efforts to repeal or defund the law.
“His action underscores his long-term commitment to work through the issues as we implement the Affordable Care Act and ensure it lives up to its promise of expanding access to affordable healthcare for all Americans,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Any policy effort this large is going to have problems, big and small.”
Obama’s attempt to use his own authority to resolve issues with the law administratively is only natural, said Nicholas Bagley, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School.
“Where there is the kind of dysfunction that we currently see in Washington and in Congress, the incentives for the executive branch to seek out administrative solutions go way up,” Bagley said.
Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of law and health policy at George Washington University, described the action as standard operating procedure for any presidential administration.
“Every administration relies on its discretion to essentially make choices over how strictly a law will be enforced,” she said.
She said that the real question was what took the president so long.
“My question is not his legal authority to act but whether he might have started to more aggressively exercise that authority several weeks ago, in anticipation of a much rockier start,” Rosenbaum said.
Despite the president’s action, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) pledged Thursday to move forward with legislation designed to let people keep their existing health plans.
“A promise should be kept. I’m going to do everything I can to pass a law in addition to [Obama's] Executive Order,” Landrieu said on The Laura Ingraham Show.
Obama on Thursday directed the Department of Health and Human Services to let state insurance commissioners allow consumers who already have policies that don't meet the standards under ObamaCare to keep them through 2014.
The administration's plan is slightly different from bills in Congress that would allow customers to keep their health insurance.
On Friday, the House is scheduled to vote on one bill, penned by Upton, which would allow new customers to buy plans that don’t meet the healthcare reform law’s standards.
Many conservatives say that measures like that are the only ones that can allow insurance plans that would otherwise be canceled to stay in place.
“As any follower of Schoolhouse Rock will know, there’s only one institution that can change the law: Congress,” Heritage Foundation senior health policy analyst Chris Jacobs wrote in a blog post. “President Obama’s ‘plan’ attempts to ignore them entirely.”
Obama attracted similar criticism in July, when his administration announced a yearlong delay of a provision of the law requiring companies with 50 or more employees to offer their workers insurance or pay a penalty.
Beyond attacks from congressional Republicans, the action drew a legal challenge from the group Judicial Watch, which argues the unilateral delay violates the Administrative Procedure Act and exceeds President Obama’s authority.