Laws that make major changes to American society almost always stir controversy. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as ObamaCare, is no exception. Many Americans and many lawmakers oppose the ACA, and are challenging it in many different ways.
Employer Mandate Lawsuit
As occurs when any law is created, the Obama administration has implemented the ACA by issuing regulations, which generally fill in any details missing from the statutory language. In some cases, these regulations have made changes to the statutory language, upsetting many lawmakers who feel such changes should go through Congress. One change was to adjust the effective date of the employer mandate – that is, the date that employers with 50 or more full time equivalent employees must offer insurance to their full time staff.
Originally, the mandate was supposed to take effect on January 1, 2014. The Obama administration announced via sub regulatory guidance that the effective date was a delayed until January 1, 2015. In February 2014, it was delayed again with a final regulation so that employers with 50-99 full time equivalent workers had until January 1, 2016 to provide insurance to their employees. The Obama administration claims that reporting difficulties make it impractical to enforce the mandate sooner.
Republican lawmakers point to the repeated regulatory changes as evidence of executive overreach because the administration is delaying the mandate without working with Congress. Thus, Obama is not faithfully executing the law.
As a result, on July 30, 2014, the House of Representatives voted to file a lawsuit against the Obama Administration. The vote was split along party lines, with all Democrats opposed and most Republicans in favor.
Next Steps in the Legal Process
The next step is for Speaker John Boehner to work with lawyers to finalize the language and specifics of the legal filing. While the Administrative Procedures Act gives courts the authority to force an agency to act to implement a law if action has been unreasonably delayed, it’s hard to know whether Congress will be able to force this action. In order to have standing to sue, Congress will have to prove that it has been directly harmed by the President’s actions. A lawsuit against the ACA brought by Ron Johnson was thrown out by the court because direct harm could not be proved.
Some commentators feel that by the time a lawsuit finds its way through the courts, the mandate will be in place anyway. Given the number of legal challenges to the ACA and the number of appeals that have occurred as a result of the act, that may well be the case. However, early rulings against the Obama administration could affect how the ACA is viewed publicly, and may affect the November 2014 election.
As controversy surrounding the ACA swirls, opponents will continue trying to find ways to attack the law on legal or administrative grounds. This current lawsuit is only one of many challenging the way the ACA is being implemented. As they work through the courts, the many lawsuits will provide a strong precedent for the way the ACA is handled in the future.