With Obamacare Delays Mounting, Should We Be Concerned?

It's officially crunch time for President Obama and the thousands of workers nationwide who've been hired to help promote the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known also as Obamacare, to the American public.

In a matter of 17 days, the state-run health exchanges are set to open for business, and assuming everything is running according to plan, people in each individual state -- whether it be a state that decided to set up its own exchange or one set up by the federal government -- should be able to transparently and openly see what health-care options are available to them, and to purchase health care on their own behalf.

The implementation of the technology and educational manpower needed to make this law come together has been in the works for nearly three and a half years. But based on certain aspects of implementation thus far, that still may not be enough time to get everything off the ground on-time for an Oct. 1 launch.

Although officials maintain that Obamacare's health exchanges are prepared to open for business on Oct. 1, I can't help pointing out multiple delays and/or failures to communicate that could put this date in jeopardy.

The employer mandate's costly delay
For one, in early July we found out that the Obama administration would be pushing back the full enforcement of the employer mandate -- the part of the bill that requires businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to supply those employees with health insurance options or face a penalty of $2,000 to $3,000 per employee -- until Jan. 1, 2015. The administration's view of the delay is that it would give everyone, including insurers, ample time to gauge how quickly individuals took to the individual health-insurance exchanges. While that's a valid point, it's also no secret that the technological oversight and potential penalty enforcement needed to ensure that businesses were complying with the law was going to be difficult to fit into the already tight schedule. On top of this, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the delay will cost $12 billion!

The often forgotten downside of this move is that it puts workers in many industries at a disadvantage for up to a year and a half. The reason they're at a disadvantage relates to the move by some businesses to cut back employees' hours below the 30-hour mark (what's deemed full-time by the PPACA) so as to avoid needing to supply health insurance to their workers and avoiding the chance of a penalty altogether. The employer mandate delay gives business another year and a half to essentially decide whether they want to supply health insurance to their employees, take the penalty, or simply cut back hours of previously full-time employees, as movie theater chain Regal Entertainment (NYSE: RGC  ) did in April as a direct result of Obamacare. My suspicion is we may wind up seeing more of the latter over the coming year.

Daunting technical delays
It's my best guess that the employer mandate was pushed back (among other reasons) because of the enormous amount of stress it would place on the existing technology. What is absolutely concrete, though, is that technical issues, and the need to be flexible with policies and pricing, delayed the Department of Health and Human Services from signing off on insurers' policies on federally run health exchanges between Sept. 5 and Sept. 9 as it was originally planned. Although the expected signing-off of federal health policies by the HHS was pushed back only about a week, it nonetheless highlights the daunting technical delays yet to be overcome with this sweeping health reform. 

Source: Marco Bellucci, Flickr.

Too few people and businesses are "in the know"
The educational shortfalls of Obamacare also have to be a bit of a concern. In August's Kaiser Family Foundation poll, two particular questions struck me as particularly worrisome. The first asked respondents whether they realized that the PPACA was the law of the land. A clean 44% of respondents had no clue, with 31% not knowing, 8% assuming Congress overturned it, and 5% thinking the Supreme Court overturned the bill. The other question involved whether individuals had heard "a lot," "some," "only a little," or "nothing at all" about their own state's health exchange. A staggering 70% are still in the "only a little" or "nothing at all" category, compared with 79% in June 2013. While this is progress, it doesn't project the image that people will be able to make smarter decisions about their own health-care choices when Oct. 1 does roll around.

Small businesses aren't much better off. Although employers were essentially given a free pass until Jan. 1, 2015, to get their act together, small businesses that are regulated under the Fair Labor Standards Act with at least one employee and $500,000 in annual revenue are required by law to inform their employees about the Oct. 1 start date for the state-run health exchanges. Should these small businesses not do this, they are subject to an ongoing $100 per-day fine. Sure, that's not a huge fine, but look at the various news media sources that have interviewed some of the nation's small businesses, and you'll discover that a large portion of these businesses had no clue that there was a $100-per-day fine attached for not informing current employees about their individual health-exchange options. As an added kicker, it isn't exactly understood how the government will track and enforce this penalty! 

Who would suffer if there's a delay
As should come as no surprise, from a business perspective, insurers and hospitals would be on the outside looking in if there's an insurance exchange delay of any form. WellPoint (NYSE: ANTM  ) and CIGNA (NYSE: CI  ) would certainly feel the pinch, as both made sizable transactions (WellPoint purchased Amerigroup for $4.5 billion and CIGNA bought Healthspring for $3.8 billion) following the passage of Obamacare in the hopes of adding some of the 16 million newly eligible Medicaid patients under the proposed Medicaid expansion. If the opening of the health-insurance exchanges experiences any delays, then these insurers are not going to meet Wall Street's already pumped up profit expectations in 2014.

Hospitals are also on the hook. The nation's largest hospital operator, HCA Holdings (NYSE: HCA  ) , wrote off 10.25% of its revenue, $3.77 billion, in 2012 just because of uncollected services rendered. In other words, it provided nearly $3.8 billion in care to people who were uninsured and couldn't pay. HCA is counting on everything to go smoothly with the implementation of this law so that its doubtful account provision will begin to fall and its profits can head higher. 

But don't forget about individuals, either. There have been quite a few people who've had their health insurance dropped by their employer who expected the employer mandate to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, so these folks will be looking for a new insurer to call their own in a matter of weeks.

Is it time to worry?
Even though Oct. 1 is less than three weeks away, I don't think the time to worry has arrived just yet -- and I'll tell you why. A precedent has been set in previous health-reform attempts that the government will scramble at the last second to get everything online, and that there will be technical glitches, but that it will all eventually work as planned.

Don't believe me? Back in December 2003, when George W. Bush signed Medicare Part D into law -- a comprehensive drug benefits reform designed to help older Americans -- and leading up to its Jan. 1, 2006, full implementation date, more people than not viewed the bill unfavorably. Furthermore, even though the implementation date was met, technical glitches did arise during the enrollment process for some individuals. Is this sounding at all familiar yet? Despite the glitches, following a few weeks of frantic fixes everything has been running properly with Medicare Part D enrollment ever since.

I suspect we'll see something similar occur with Obamacare. We may not see as many technical snafus as we witnessed with Medicare Part D, but instead we may be subjected to a learning curve as Americans acquaint themselves with the law and become educated about their choices. I highly, highly doubt this will be a smooth transition come Oct. 1, but I also, using previous precedence, I don't think consumers or investors in the aforementioned stocks have any reason to be worried just yet.

Are you among the majority that's still in the dark about how Obamacare might affect you and your portfolio? Don't worry -- you're not alone. To help prepare investors for the massive changes coming to the American health-care system, The Motley Fool created a special free report that makes this complex topic easily understandable. Download "Everything You Need to Know About Obamacare" and discover how the law may affect your taxes, health insurance, and investments. Click here for your free copy today.

Read/Post Comments (24) | Recommend This Article (4)

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  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 3:55 PM, Widowmaker6 wrote:

    Yes, let us hope it is delayed until it is defunded and defunded until it is REPEALED - obamaz is the wOrst President Ever

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 5:24 PM, mapsguy wrote:

    The only way it will be repealed is if it is replaced with single payer. Healthcare is the biggest drain on dollars and will only get worse. To fix this country everyone needs to participate and be included.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 5:31 PM, roger142 wrote:

    The 3.8 billion dollars HCA wrote off was at full retail cost. So actually they only lost maybe 4 hundred million dollars. Which is a lot of money, but still misleading. Most hospitals charge the uninsured up to 10 times more for services, than an insurance company would pay.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 6:35 PM, wfo75080 wrote:

    Obamacare will never work without massive tax hikes. There are not enough employed people anymore to pay into the plan. Anyone that thinks this is going to improve the care in the USA is delirious.

    Obamacare is great for the poor and the free loaders, but will ultimately result in rationing care and poor quality doctor. ex. Canada.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 7:14 PM, doco177 wrote:

    Google.... "Obamacare Flowchart" at Intellectual Takeout .... to see a visual representation of the corrupt mess this really is

    Congress,Muslims, Amish, Native Americans are exempt from mandate and penalties under Obamacare that the rest of us have to pay.

    1. Millions are losing the insurance Obama promised they could keep. Because ObamaCare forces employers to offer expensive Cadillac plans but also offers the option of paying a fine for not providing health insurance that can be cheaper than providing it, between seven and twenty million Americans are likely to lose their health insurance coverage according to the Congressional Budget Office. The original estimate was closer to four million.

    2. The cost of healthcare premiums is about to further skyrocket. Premium costs have already exploded, but that is a slow-motion explosion. In the near future, we could see costs double or worse. Naturally, these costs will hit an already burdened middle class hardest.

    3. Lost jobs. Lost jobs.

    The Federal Reserve's March beige book on economic activity noted that businesses "cited the unknown effects of the Affordable Care Act as reasons for planned layoffs and reluctance to hire more staff."

    Consulting firm Adecco found that half of the small businesses it surveyed in January either plan to cut their workforce, not hire new workers, or shift to part-time or temporary help because of ObamaCare.

    4. Doctor shortages that will mean rationing: The healthcare industry is already a bureaucratic quagmire. ObamaCare is about to add steroids. As the profession becomes tyrannized by government, the talented people currently practicing medicine plan to get out sooner than expected. Who knows how many will choose not to get in. Doctor shortages are what lead to the nightmare known as rationed care.

    5. Somewhere around $800 billion in tax increases will hit America's middle class. This added burden will not only further oppress a middle class already reeling from a drop in wages over the last few years, but could damage the overall economy.

    6. Inflation, the cruelest tax on the poor. When businesses get socked with added costs brought about by higher taxes and burdensome government mandates, they pass those cost along to the consumer in the form of higher prices.

    7. Added bureaucracy. Even those Obama lapdogs over at the Washington Post's Wonk Blog are admitting that applying for health care is about to get more burdensome than the byzantine paperwork involved in buying a home.

    8. To cut costs or to avoid having to provide insurance, workers on the economic margins are already losing hours, which means a lower paycheck. There are a million sad stories in ObamaVille; here are just a few of them.

    9. ObamaCare is projected to add $6.2 TRILLION to a deficit the GAO has already declared "unsustainable." That's "trillion" with a "t".

    10. More taxes than currently estimated are likely to hit because of situations like this one.

    Three years ago, Obama, Democrats, and his media lied to us about cutting the cost of health care, being able to keep our insurance, and not taxing the middle class. Today, those lies and what ObamaCare is and will do to the working and middle class are the biggest untold story in America.

    The govt becoming more involved in health care is the reason the costs have increased. So Govt creates a crisis, then provides a solution that comes at the expense of liberty and freedom, costs trillions, and by most accounts won't solve the problem but in fact make it far worse.Corruption, incompetence, disregard of the Constitution, and lying are integral to the way that this country is being run.

    REFUSE and Repeal Obamacare...If only a mere 20% of the over 300 million population of the USA boycott Obamacare the government would be overwhelmed to even think they could penalize or mandate every citizen that refused to participate in the most corrupt and unlawful ways which it was passed that circumvented the constitution of the United States.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 7:21 PM, JePonce wrote:

    We should be concerned if it is ever implemented.

    Defund it now. Stop the multiple violations of our constitutional right to privacy.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 7:49 PM, skypilot2005 wrote:

    Obama's Union Allies Want a Big Obamacare Gift

    By Kristen Hinman September 14, 2013

    Unions want tax subsidies for their members.

    Union workers shouldn’t have to pay reinsurance fees.

    Unions dislike the way Obamacare separates full- and part-time work.

    “Labor leaders have been working behind the scenes all summer trying to get the Obama administration and members of Congress to make accommodations. They’re annoyed at concessions offered to big business (delaying the employer mandate until 2015) and to religious employers (allowing them to exempt contraceptive coverage from their plans). The unions are arguing that it’s now their turn for a break. In a letter that three labor leaders reportedly sent to Democratic leaders in Congress over the summer, they weren’t shy about asking for payback in exchange for supporting the law. “Time is running out: Congress wrote this law; we voted for you,” they wrote. “We have a problem; you need to fix it.”



  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 8:21 PM, Kngrthr wrote:

    I'm concerned the government doesn't have the faintest idea what they are doing.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 8:30 PM, asICit wrote:

    Managing the implementation of Part D for Medicare recipients in 2003 was one thing, but managing the implementation of a program that will impact one sixth of the entire U.S. economy is a totally different kettle of fish. I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you! Obama, Reid and Pelosi are just now about "to find out exactly what is in this law" and I do believe it isn't going to be pretty folks!

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 8:36 PM, hagar2935 wrote:

    Defund it... No repeal it!!!

    Obamacare will bankrupt the USA and turn the USA into a part-time employment Country where NOBODY has health insurance but those who are forced into it by a Communist run Government. Like in all Socialist Societies, ONLY the Super Rich and the Privileged Few get decent healthcare... all the others suffer or die from lack of decent care.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 8:38 PM, Turtleskater wrote:

    Obama's idea of healthcare is suppose to enlighten and bring affordable healthcare - except Obama puts all Americans into government slavery. Citizens have to purchase the government approved plans and the poor will have to accept what the government decides to provide in some form of healthcare.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 8:58 PM, RenegadeIAm wrote:

    "The employer mandate delay gives business another year and a half to essentially decide whether they want to supply health insurance to their employees, take the penalty, or simply cut back hours of previously full-time employees"


    It will give employers a year to figure out a way to pay for the ONE SIZE FITS ALL ObamaCare mandated minimum insurance.

    Most of these employers ALREADY provided affordable health insurance. Now they can't afford it and will have to dump employees onto the ObamaCare exchanges.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 9:30 PM, NoMoeMoney wrote:

    This will have a dramatic effect on society as a whole and it will be dire. Even the poor who are suppose to get subsities to cover their costs will suffer. Stupid people who ran far way from homework in school now have to face a government mandated process that smart people won't be able to understand. The middle class will cease to exist, it will get destroyed and it is already happening. I think the elites running this country want this to happen, they want total control.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 9:33 PM, Makikijoe wrote:

    All you conservatives who are screaming for repeal are, I believe, going to be sadly disappointed. I think the president and the Senate Democrats are more than willing to "go to the mat" to defend this new law.

    Most conservatives would despise Mom and apple pie, if those were called Obama-Mom and Obama pie. Republicans have shamelessly tried to obstruct almost EVERYTHING this president has tried to do since the day he took office.

    Even if that includes doing something that will help another 30 million Americans get health care ........ many Repugnantcans will STILL oppose it.

    The real opponents of the new health care law are the wealthy. They have the most to lose. For them, it DOES matter because there is a surchage on the income tax of the wealthy, amounting to nine tenths of one percent to help pay for the new law. Also, there is, for the wealthy, an increased tax on their capital gains. Deep pocket conservatives have funded a lot of the opposition to the new health care law. But they hide behind SuperPacs with secret donor lists.

    Some conservatives are just so blinded by their hatred of Obama for supporting abortion rights or gay rights that they will oppose him on almost anything he does. Even this major effort to expand health coverage to cover many millions of people who were previously without it, they will still oppose. They will pick at it's shortcomings. But you won't hear a word from conservatives about the millions of people who will now get coverage as a result of this new law.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 9:35 PM, Haxhere wrote:

    I deliver medicine to approximately 150 doctors and hospitals and not one supports obamacare-NOT ONE!!

    and how about these for just STARTERS!!!!!


    Page 22 MANDATES

    The Gov’t. WILL AUDIT books of ALL EMPLOYERS who self insure!


    Page 29 Lines 4-16

    You can ONLY RECEIVE so much care per YEAR ($5,000.00 per individual-$10,000.00 per FAMILY!!)

    Page 30 Section 123


    Page 42

    The healthcare committee WILL CHOOSE YOUR healthcare BENEFITS for YOU!!


    Page 58


    Page 59 Lines 21-24


    Page 85 Line 7

    AARP members, YOUR healthcare WILL BE RATIONED!!

    Page 124 Lines 24-25

    NO company can sue the gov’t on “price fixing” and NO “JUDICIAL REVIEW” against gov’t monopoly!!

    Page 127 Lines 1-16

    Doctors and A.M.A.- The gov’t WILL TELL YOU how MUCH money you make!!

    Page 170 Lines 1-3


    (YOU AND I WILL PAY THEM!!!!!!!)

    Page 195

    Officers and Employees of healthcare (gov’t) administration WILL HAVE ACCESS to ALL AMERICANS FINANCIAL AND PERSONAL RECORDS!!

    Page 203 Lines 14-15

    “The tax IMPOSED under this section shall NOT be treated as tax!!”

    Page 239 Lines 14-24


    Page 241 Lines 6-8

    ALL DOCTORS, no matter what specialty WILL BE paid the SAME!!

    Pages 253 Lines 10-18

    The gov’t WILL SET the VALUE of doctor’s time, professional judgement


    Page 272 Sect. 1145


    WELCOME TO RATIONING!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Page 354 Sect. 1177


    Page 425 Lines 4-12



    Page 425 Lines 22-25

    Page426 Lines 1-3

    GOV’T PROVIDES APPROVED LIST OF “END of LIFE” GUIDING YOU INTO DEATH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 9:48 PM, bulletsville wrote:

    Medicare for all

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 10:14 PM, gordeedoo wrote:

    I can NOT afford hundreds of dollars a month for health insurance. When I have paid my rent, utilities ,food , gas to get to work etc. There is NOTHING left. How STUPID is Obama to think that he is doing us a favor?

    What an absolute idiot.

    Get rid of that imbecile right now.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 10:50 PM, bugmenot wrote:

    People are asking the wrong questions. How could Washington produce such an incomplete plan? How could Congress and the President be so incompetent? Should the Democrat Party be ousted for gross negligence for its failure to read and review the Bill? Should the Democrat Party be held accountable for the costs of the Bill with taxes on Democrat contributions of 50% for the next 100 years? ACA is a perfect example of gross incompetence.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2013, at 11:06 PM, captaintodzilla wrote:

    Doing the same thing over and over is insane. Fix America First. Prioritize , a good example is the best teacher. Recycle America. Create Accountability. Build a new Society before retiring the old decrepit one we have now. Build a new Government before retiring the old decrepit one we have now. Build a new Economy before retiring the old decrepit one we have now. Build a new Educational System before retiring the old decrepit one we have now. Build a new Judicial System before retiring the old decrepit one we have now. build new bridges and a new electrical grid ,prioritize people family and children ......turn things around......provide jobs completing the above task.....take the elites jobs and money they have done it to the working class. build a good foundation then rebuild. reinstate common sense. create accountability. and most of all treat our cancers greed , ignorance and self-entitlement. exile our prisoners and bring back labor camps so our prisoners make us money or at least don't cost us any. secure our borders . invest in our children and education more than politics. I would use morals and common sense good leadership and with gods help I would do it with the strength of the people of the USA. I would arrest thief's and thugs not granny's smoking weed.(meaning prioritize) there are so many simple solutions to our problems but so many master debaters. GREED IGNORANCE AND SELF-ENTITLEMENT ARE THE CANCERS KILLING OUR SOCIETY all the other #$%$ slewn by the media and politicians and churches are the things they use to keep your attention elsewhere like a magicians slight of hand while you focus on their shenanigans your children and your children's children are being exploited for the 1%'s benefit because our society works well for them and they can afford to keep it that way. if they want change FIX AMERICA FIRST. its simple to do for the rich. get a Honest President to declare ww3 so they cant get rid of him before his changes take hold. go to war against GREED , IGNORANCE, SELF-ENTITLEMENT, AND POLITICAL CORRECTNESS send our prisoners off to countries were at war with not our children. use our military as a border. change the charity margins so 70% goes to the charity and 30% go to the fundraisers (opposite of how it is now) invest in our children more than our prisoners. make all public office wages same as minimum wage. cap profit margins in America I don't like paying for the mistakes of others. gas prices went up after the bp oil spill because they wanted to recover their losses. our society runs the way it does because it is designed that way for the rich by the rich. their are many common sense simple ways to change things to make a better world to live in. legalize marijuana god made it man banned it, the rich cotton farmers were afraid of the hemp industry would make them poor. legalize prostitution maybe less children will get abducted. until we can prioritize correctly , have accountability , and worry about the American instead of the American dollar things will remain perverted. Anyone can find fault -- it's not a sign of anything other than moderate brain activity. It's much harder to offer creative criticism that actually improves the situation for everyone involved UNITED we stand divided we fall...there is only one race the HUMAN RACE all the divisions of political parties and skin color have demoralized this country into a sewage plant of lying stealing ignorant greedy self-entitled hypocritical idiots the government has had too much money power and time with too little results actions speak louder than words. vote Todd Higgins for president I would use common sense and high morals.

  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2013, at 12:12 AM, profitsB4patient wrote:

    Politicians and insurance companys; Liars,Cheats,Thieves,parasitic Leeches;

    Bankrupting the ppl our children our country our future

  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2013, at 1:40 AM, tnsmeek68 wrote:

    Obama care is the best thing for the people and for business. I will be sharing facts about the health care system unlike some of the things being said that are not true. First Obama said you could keep your exiting insurance he did not lie as some are stating. If business choose to cut hours to avoid providing health care the blame is on the bussnes

  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2013, at 1:59 AM, tnsmeek68 wrote:

    Also, some say that jobs will be lost I believe that jobs will be created they will need more workers in the medical field to keep up with the additional people that will be added to the health care system. It has already created jobs with the health care exchanges at all 52 states. The hospitals will defiantly benefit due to so many people without Ins who does not pay currently If everyone has Ins the hospitals get paid. The way I see it is Obama care is so great for so many people the only people who are against it are people who are rich,selfish, and Republicans.

  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2013, at 3:24 AM, tristinstone wrote:

    Get rid of Liberal Democrats= problem solved!

  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2013, at 10:53 AM, jprizoli wrote:

    Just remember how the Republicans are being paid off by the insurance companies who by the way have no place in healthcare any longer. How is it better to place an insurance company with all it’s overhead and obscene pay packages between the patient and doctor? To say nothing of the opulent architecture owned by these same companies. Can no one perceive the insurance company’s commitment to paying on the cheap? At the expense of the patient’s well being. Profit IS their number ONE priority. Not Patients.

    Additionally, an insurance company doesn’t try to suppress the high cost of medical care; they know that they can merely increase the cost to the subscriber and maintain their profits. They have been doing this for 30 years and now the poop has finally hit the fan. Healthcare was affordable up to the 70's and began getting exponentially worse. I will attest to this personally. This is something the government would be motivated to put in check because they have more accountability than some corporate giant.

    See how long you’d have to interview Canadians to come up with 20 who would give up their healthcare for the American version.

    Obama knows what he is doing. Just have some patience- which no one has any longer. Most people against this new healthcare system think that you flick a light switch and everything is fine....sorry. It took 50 + years for the insurance companies to screw this is going to take at least a couple of days to fix it.

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