WASHINGTON – Framing a new argument against President Barack Obama’s health care law, congressional GOP leaders called Tuesday for a delay in the law’s requirement that individual Americans carry health insurance.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other senior Republicans told Obama in a letter that his decision last week to grant a one-year delay for employers but leave in place provisions for individuals and families had created many new questions and concerns.
At a Capitol Hill news conference, Boehner vowed to hold another vote this month to remove the individual mandate, arguing that it was necessary to “correct this injustice.”
“If businesses can get relief from Obamacare, the rest of America ought to be able to get relief as well,” Boehner told reporters. He later added, “We’ll have another vote, count on it.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration has no intention of delaying the individual mandate. He said the law provides financial aid to low-income Americans and is flexible so that people facing financial hardships aren’t punished for going without coverage.
The criticism from top Republicans, Carney said, is “pretty rich coming from leaders who have now voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act going on 40 times, and who promised to do it again, to charge up that hill, only again not to reach the top, rather than focus on the work that the American people want done because they have no alternative.”
Asked whether public confidence in the law could be eroded by delays and by the change in the smoking provision, Carney said, “A piece of legislation like this, to be responsibly implemented, needs to be implemented in a flexible way.”
Nonetheless, Republicans hope their new argument will gain traction in next year’s congressional elections, as the law’s big push to cover the uninsured gets underway. Foes are betting the coverage rollout will be full of problems, particularly since about half the states have refused to support the federal effort.
Under the law, middle-class people with no access to job-based coverage will be eligible for subsidized private insurance, while low-income uninsured people will be steered to an expanded version of Medicaid in states that accept it.