Editorial: Latest ACA changes motivated by looming Congressional elections

Published Mar 7, 2014 at 12:01AM

Changes announced Wednesday in the Affordable Care Act are blatantly political moves to delay painful impacts on voters until after this fall’s congressional elections. More important in the long run, the Obama administration is eroding the separation of powers by usurping congressional authority to legislate.

The dismantling of the 2010 law started with the 2011 decision to dump its provision for long-term care insurance, according to The Wall Street Journal, after the administration realized it couldn’t work financially.

The most recent changes include allowing policies that don’t meet the law’s requirements to continue to be sold into 2017. That adds two years to an earlier one-year pass designed to satisfy outrage over millions of policy cancellations. It tried to answer complaints that the president lied when he said those who liked their policies could keep them.

In between have been a series of delays, waivers and changes in which the administration has altered the law by executive fiat. Imagine the reaction if another president tried similar action to change environmental or civil rights laws. The precedent gets stronger with every announced alteration in the congressionally approved provisions of the ACA.

Ironies abound in Wednesday’s announcement, which included a new round of changes combined with this statement: “Unlike last year, we’re putting out the policies early, they’re clear, people can rely on them.”

Anyone who believes we can “rely” on these rulings hasn’t been paying attention. It’s a shifting landscape as the administration scrambles to repair the many flaws in this law and to protect itself from political fallout at the ballot box.

It’s true the law has benefited many consumers through provisions on pre-existing conditions, more extensive coverage and tax credits to help pay premiums. But of the 50 million uninsured, the latest Congressional Budget Office estimates say 30 million will still have no coverage in 2020. Employer sanctions have been delayed and limited plans survive. More targeted laws could have achieved the positives without disrupting the entire system and without turning the executive branch into a legislative body.