For the past week, the Fox News spokesman for the Divine Spirit, Bill O’Reilly, has been proselytizing his own prescription for resolving the government shutdown crisis. The centerpiece of his solution is his call to delay the Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate” for one year. He says that big business is getting to waive their mandate for a year, so why not all of the American people.
The only thing wrong O’Reilly’s position is everything. First of all, Americans already have a de facto one year exemption from ObamaCare. The open enrollment period for ObamaCare extends for six months, until the end of March 2014. Anyone who does not get the required insurance by then will have to pay penalty, but it will not be due until 2015. So everyone has plenty of time between now and then to evaluate their options and make a decision that is in their best interest. Therefore, O’Reilly’s suggestion for a one year delay is moot. His notion that everybody must have insurance by January first or they will be billed immediately is simply untrue.
Secondly, O’Reilly uses as a justification for his superfluous delay proposal the previous granting of a one year waiver for the employer mandate. He reasons that if big business is granted this alleged reprieve, why not give the same break to individuals? But what O’Reilly either doesn’t know, or doesn’t say, is that the waiver to which he is referring is only going to a tiny minority of specific businesses that are not providing health insurance to their employees. Since about 96% of the impacted companies already provide such insurance, that leaves only the portion of the remaining 4% who are not prepared to comply that will be subject to the waiver. And that represents about 0.4% of the American people. Citing that miniscule piece of the program as justification for exempting everyone subject to the individual mandate is ludicrous.
When Bill O’Reilly mouths off ignorantly about subjects like these, it really isn’t particularly surprising. He does that pretty much every day. Unfortunately, his pal from the Daily Show, Jon Stewart, also got swept up in the false argument about business waivers during an interview last night with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius. And as if it weren’t bad enough that he misread the facts, he berated Sebelius in a prolonged rant over that misunderstanding. Hopefully someone on his staff will provide him with more accurate data on this for future reference.
It is plainly absurd to delay a program that is already saving millions of dollars for millions of people on the basis of such flawed reasoning. And it certainly makes no sense to push everything back because a few companies got a waiver. The Tea Party Republicans advocating this course are engaging in deliberate obstruction and obfuscation, and they must not be allowed to get away with it. Their irresponsible behavior is already having an adverse effect on them with some polls showing they are at risk of losing their majority in the House of Representatives. So I guess the old saying about silver linings is true.