EDITORIAL: Obamacare’s latest revision hammers employers

Too many laws hurt the very people they’re supposed to help. But Obamacare is in a class all alone because of the damage it has caused to the rule of law itself. President Barack Obama’s latest change to the Affordable Care Act — despite lacking the authority to act unilaterally — is among the most brutal yet.

Just a few months ago, if a company couldn’t afford rising health insurance premiums for employee coverage, a business had the option of ending coverage altogether and shifting its workers to an exchange — public or private — by giving workers a tax-free, lump-sum payment toward the cost of coverage. If workers were sent to a state or federal exchange, some would have qualified for federal subsidies, reducing their out-of-pocket expenses further. Walgreens, Sears, Darden Restaurants and other companies exercised this option. Employees maintained coverage, and the companies gained some cost certainty.

But yet another rogue ruling by the Obama administration has changed all that.

The latest revision to Obamacare, quietly announced before Memorial Day weekend, requires large employers to offer health coverage to full-time employees and blocks employers from sending workers to an exchange. If an employer fails to abide by the new rules, it will be fined $100 per day— or $36,500 per year — for each employee. The Internal Revenue Service will enforce this new tax, on top of the law’s other penalties.

The Affordable Care Act is supposed to be the law of the land. And Congress is supposed to make the laws. But the president has such little regard for the legislative branch of government that he continues to change the law as he sees fit — and as political considerations warrant. Even members of his own party are questioning how he can get away with this.

Back in February, Democrats loved the idea of Americans being liberated from employer-based coverage and “job lock.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi claimed Obamacare would give Americans the freedom to quit their jobs in order to follow their passion to “write poetry” or do whatever else they had dreamed of doing. If their employer dumped coverage and shifted them to the exchange — or if they lost their job — it was hakuna matata time. Employers and employees suddenly had options. And plans on the exchanges were supposed to be superior, anyway.

So much for that plan. It’ll be quite interesting to see how Rep. Pelosi and Co. reconcile their vision with the president’s latest revision. He has moved the goalposts again, leaving employers even less certain about how Obamacare will affect their bottom line going forward.

Companies now have one more reason to not hire or provide pay raises. Many companies correctly deduced that it would be cheaper to provide employees with lump-sum payments for use on the exchanges and stop providing coverage directly. For some companies, the option was a fail-safe to prevent layoffs or avoid going out of business as a result of rising premiums. And, yes, employer premiums will continue to rise. Companies are bracing for premium spikes when plans renew in the second half of this year — right around election time.

Normally, legislation this flawed would simply collapse on itself. But if President Obama continues his arrogant circumvention of Congress — and if nobody is going to stop him — the damage to our economy and health care system will only grow.

Enough is enough. Repeal Obamacare.

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