The nondescript July 2 blog from the Treasury Department – titled “Continuing to Implement the ACA in a Careful, Thoughtful Manner” – could have easily flown under the radar. But contained at the bottom of the update was a major delay, which was among the first to raise questions about the overall health of the law. The administration announced here that it would not require mid-sized and large employers to offer health coverage to full-time workers until 2015, as opposed to next year. While the administration downplayed the change, Republican critics jumped on it. “The ObamaCare train derails,” the Republican National Committee declared at the time.
Right before the Thanksgiving holiday, the administration announced on Nov. 27 that it would push off online enrollment for small businesses by a year. The Department of Health and Human Services revealed it would delay the launch of the online SHOP Marketplace -- which is meant for small businesses -- until November 2014. The announcement came after the administration first said, right before the Oct. 1 launch of all exchanges, that it was temporarily delaying the market until November. After it was pushed off another year, critics said the move would create “onerous” paperwork for employers.
On top of the problems with HealthCare.gov, the millions of Americans losing their insurance coverage in spite of the president’s promises quickly became a major political problem for the White House. So, after much of the damage was done, President Obama on Nov. 14 announced that insurance companies could offer out-of-compliance plans for another year.
The decision was up to insurance companies and state-level insurance commissioners, though, and the White House struggled to get broad support for the plan. Insurance officials worried that a reversal at this stage would seriously disrupt the market.
In another major change in the thick of the holiday season, the administration on Dec. 19 granted a reprieve to thousands, possibly millions, of customers whose insurance had been canceled. Under the change, those struggling to find a new plan would be able to buy bare-bones “catastrophic” plans next year – which would otherwise be unavailable to them. Plus, the administration decided to let them skirt the law’s individual mandate for now.
The deadline for people to enroll in order to get coverage by Jan. 1 has been a moving target. It was originally Dec. 15. Then the administration extended it to Dec. 23. Then some insurers said those who select their plan by that deadline would have until Jan. 10 to pay. But then, in one final change right before Christmas, the administration quietly extended the deadline again – from Dec. 23 to Christmas Eve. The administration said people would have to get in line for coverage on the website by the original deadline, but would have until Dec. 24 to finish the process.
The Obama administration began tinkering with major components of the health care law earlier this year, to the astonishment of some lawmakers. But by December, the delays and adjustments to President Obama’s signature law were coming at a steady clip. As the deadline for January enrollment hits and the year draws to a close, here’s a look back at the most memorable ObamaCare delays of 2013.