Obamacare's Employer Mandate Is Toast, And Democrats Are OK With That

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- President Obama this week cheered the milestone 7 millionth person to sign up for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but a growing opinion is spreading among Democrats that the law's employer mandate should go.

Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a speech on Wednesday that the mandate requiring employers with 50 or more full-time employees to offer medical coverage will be one of the first parts of the law to go.

The comments from Gibbs, who was an influential official within Obama's first administration, on the surface seem surprising: a Democrat once close to the president saying that lawmakers should kill a contentious piece of his landmark legislation. But policy experts have seen this coming.

"My view is that the employer mandate is one of the most vulnerable features of the law politically," Jonathan Oberlander, a University of North Carolina professor who researches health policy, said in a phone interview from Chapel Hill, N.C. "There are many things in the law that will lower costs for businesses ... but there are some businesses that would end up with higher costs."

The employer mandate could couch small- and medium-sized firms with higher costs.

Republicans since Obamacare passed in 2010 steeped much of their platform on repealing the law, and a GOP criticism -- especially during the 2012 election -- was that the ACA would hurt small businesses by forcing them to hire fewer employees.

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