There are a number of major implications for politics and health policy stemming from this decision to delay the mandate until 2015.
To start, the purpose of imposing a $2,000 (or $3,000) penalty per worker on businesses with over 50 employees which did not offer acceptable health coverage was to discourage businesses from dropping coverage in response to the health care law and dumping their workers on new government-run exchanges. But absent that penalty, will more businesses now be motivated to drop their current coverage?
Also, the delay is said to be one year, but if business lobbyists were successful in convincing the Obama administration to delay it for a year, will it actually ever go into effect? Congress routinely votes to delay scheduled cuts in physician payments under Medicare. Will this be the same sort of policy, that exists on paper, but never gets implemented?
Politically, the decision smacks of the Obama administration wanting to defer the impact of the law on businesses during the 2014 midterm election year, avoiding headlines about businesses cutting staff levels or reducing worker hours to get around the mandate. But it could also be politically dangerous, by reinforcing the idea that the law is a looming train wreck. Republicans can now also run on an argument that if voters elect them, they’ll prevent this horrible policy — so horrible that even the Obama administration had to delay it for a year — from ever going into effect.