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House Passes Delay of Major Provisions in Health-Care Law

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Obamacare Delay Boosts Business as Workers, States Show Concern
In postponing the mandate for a year, the president has lessened the need for employers to provide coverage or improve on skimpy benefits, and opened questions about who may be eligible for U.S. subsidies being offered in the online insurance exchanges now being created under the law. Photographer: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

July 18 (Bloomberg) -- The Republican-led U.S. House voted to postpone two significant provisions of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement of his first term.

The measures aren’t expected to advance in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Since its enactment in 2010, the House has voted 37 times to repeal or defund at least part of the health-care law, including three times to annul the entire measure.

Yesterday, the House voted on a delay in enforcement of the so-called employer and individual mandates. One bill, H.R. 2667, passed 264-161 and would postpone until 2015 the requirement that U.S. businesses with 50 or more workers provide their employees with health insurance.

It’s meant to codify the Obama administration’s decision to delay the employer mandate for a year until 2015.

By a separate vote of 251-174, the House passed H.R. 2668, which would delay by a year the requirement that most Americans have health insurance by 2014 or pay a fine. The administration hasn’t sought to postpone that provision.

House Republicans are “refighting these old battles” by passing the measures, President Barack Obama said today at the White House. The administration has said the president would veto the House legislation.

‘New Competition’

“Health-care costs have slowed drastically in some areas since we passed the Affordable Care Act,” Obama said. “New competition, new choices, market forces are pushing costs down.”

House Speaker John Boehner said today that Obama’s veto threat and the few Democratic votes for the bills are “appalling.”

“Democrats are going to have to answer to their constituents for it,” Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said at a news conference in Washington.

Among House Democrats, 35 voted with Republicans to delay the employer mandate and 22 voted to postpone the individual mandate. One Republican, Morgan Griffith of Virginia, voted against both bills.

After yesterday’s vote, Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, to take up the legislation.

‘Pointless Pandering’

“It is pointless pandering,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat.

The measures are intended to bolster lawmakers’ talking points for the five-week congressional recess that starts in August. Republicans ran against the health-care law in the 2010 midterm elections, which helped them win a majority in the House.

The administration announced July 2 that it would delay the employer mandate until 2015. House Republicans have scheduled three committee hearings this week on the Affordable Care Act.

The Obama administration said in a statement that the measure to delay the employer mandate is “unnecessary,” and legislation postponing the individual requirement “would raise health insurance premiums and increase the number of uninsured Americans.”

Taken together, the two bills would “cost millions of hard-working middle-class families the security of affordable health coverage and care they deserve,” according to a statement of administration policy by the Office of Management and Budget.

To contact the reporter on this story: Roxana Tiron in Washington at rtiron@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net

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