WASHINGTON – Having failed to delay Obamacare by shutting down the government, a group of House Republicans – led this time by Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence – is trying a different approach: asking somewhat politely.
Collins on Monday wrote a sternly worded letter, joined by 23 of his colleagues, to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, requesting a delay in the mandate that requires individuals to have health insurance by Jan. 1.
The lawmakers noted that in July, the administration unilaterally delayed the penalty that many businesses would face if they did not offer health insurance to their employees. Given problems with the healthcare.gov website, where people in 36 states will shop for insurance, a delay in the individual mandate makes sense, the letter said.
“Unfortunately, individuals who have to navigate the debacle of a healthcare website do not have the luxury to lobby White House and agency officials as some employers do,” Collins wrote. “On their behalf, we request equality between businesses and the individual in a delay of the individual mandate, at least until the marketplace is functional.”
Despite the problems with the website, President Obama has been reluctant to delay the individual mandate. Instead, he has ordered repairs to the website and counseled patience.
In his letter to Sebelius, Collins said that the problems with the website are very serious.
“The bungling implementation of the exchanges seems inexplicable,” he said. “With overwhelming amounts of resources and time at its disposal, the administration has somehow been unable to build one functional website in the country that houses the largest and most successful Internet companies in the world.”
Fourteen states – including New York – opted to open their own online health insurance marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act, and most of those sites have functioned far better than healthcare.gov.
Collins’ letter to Sebelius – which mirrors legislation that critics of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” are pushing in both houses of Congress – is just the latest expression of his antipathy for the health law, which was a centerpiece of his race for Congress last year.
Collins voted for government funding bills tied to the defunding or delay of Obamacare, and those bills led to a government shutdown earlier this month.
He later said he did not really favor tying the two issues together, but that he voted for those bills because they were the best options before him at the time.