Just when it looked as if the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) couldn’t be any worse, the president himself stepped right in it. By extending the time that people could stay on health plans that don’t comply with the ACA—those that need to be phased out so that the ACA insurance exchanges have a balanced mix of healthy and sick subscribers—Barack Obama perpetuated one more of the law’s problems into the future. And in doing so, he’s guaranteed we’ll still be discussing fundamental issues about the ACA in the 2016 presidential election.
Like most complex laws, the ACA has built-in lags in enacting particular features. When it was signed by the president in 2010, certain things quickly went into effect, including allowing young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until they turned 26 and prohibiting the denial of health insurance to children with preexisting conditions.
But other aspects of the law, such as the health exchanges and the fine for not purchasing insurance, were delayed until this year and next. What this means, though, is that each new phase provides a new opportunity to criticize and adjust the law.