The Obama administration's one-year delay in the requirement that large employers (more than 50 workers) provide health insurance for their workers or pay a penalty continues to generate confused and contradictory responses that ignore the underlying problem—the slow-motion collapse of the employer-based insurance system.
The law is too complex. The paperwork is too burdensome. Giving business a break is unfair, so why not delay the individual mandate, too, newborn populist House Speaker John Boehner wrote in a letter to the president last week.
The media immediately jumped on the bandwagon by chasing down small businesses hovering around the 50-employee mark—usually mom-and-pop run restaurants—that are delaying hiring, cutting back hours and otherwise contemplating ways of circumventing the mandate. Many saw in the delay evidence of the administration's underlying incompetence and darkly warned that the rollout of the rest of the insurance expansion will suffer a similar fate.
Thus was squandered another opportunity to instruct Americans about the illogical and cumbersome nature of the U.S. health insurance system, which has left the U.S.—the richest country on earth—as the only advanced industrial nation without universal or near-universal coverage.
The U.S. is a rarity among countries in its reliance on employers for health coverage. What began as a way to get around WWII wage controls has morphed into a hybrid system where 96% of employers with more than 50 workers offer health coverage to their workers, while 72% of workers in companies with fewer than 25 employees report that their employers do not offer plans.