- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Rep. Kevin Brady says the Obama administration is picking and choosing when it has the authority to tweak the health care law and when it does not, ultimately bending the situation to its own needs.

Mr. Brady, Texas Republican and chairman of Ways and Means Committee panel on health, repeatedly asked Mark Iwry, a senior adviser and deputy assistant secretary at the Treasury, on Tuesday whether his department has the authority to delay the law’s individual mandate requiring almost all Americans to have insurance.

The lawmaker said the administration has decided to delay and phase in through 2016 the employer mandate, which requires firms with 50 or more employees to provide health coverage or pay fines. It also gave Americans additional time to finish up their applications for private health plans on the federal exchange system, he noted, even though Cabinet officials said they did not have the statutory authority to extend the March 31 deadline for signing up.

But the individual mandate went into effect at the start of this year.

Mr. Brady and Mr. Iwry spoke past each other for a few minutes Tuesday, with the Treasury official testifying that the administration never examined its authority to delay the individual mandate because it did not ever consider such a move.

The mandate was included in the law to broaden the insurance risk pool when people with pre-existing medical conditions enter the market, since insurers can no longer deny them coverage.

Mr. Iwry said the individual mandate is phased in already, in a sense, with the tax penalty for lacking insurance becoming more severe from year to year.

“So the statute has phased that in,” he said. “We don’t see a reason to add administrative phase-ins on top of the statutory phase-in.”