What lies ahead for Obamacare in 2014?

Andrew Evans of the Washington Free Beacon tackles that question in a new column.

Jan. 1 brings the law’s first real test, as this is the date on which insurance plans bought through the exchanges begin covering people.

Hundreds of thousands have signed up for the new plans. However, it remains to be seen if the insurance companies received accurate information through the faulty website HealthCare.gov. If they did not, it is an open question as to whether or not those who think they are insured actually have coverage.

Improvements to the back end of the website—the part that transmits information from the federal agencies to the private insurance companies that are actually insuring individuals—have been less than impressive, as insurance companies were complaining as late as mid-December about getting incomplete and faulty insurance applications.

This potential problem is compounded by the fact that many insurance companies, at the administration’s urging, are offering to cover individuals before they have made their first payment.

Early problems with law’s implementation could lead the administration to delay what remains of the law’s requirements, especially the individual mandate. The administration has already delayed the mandate for those people whose plans were canceled late in 2013 and at least one healthcare expert is predicting that the mandate will be delayed for all.

Meanwhile, many small businesses will feel the effect of the law throughout the year. If a small business renewed its insurance plans in 2013, it can bypass the law’s requirements for another year. However, when it renews in 2014 its new plans will have to comply with the law and its costs could rise.

Some small businesses in 2013 curtailed or canceled health insurance policies offered to employees in anticipation of the law’s requirements, and it is possible that many small businesses will follow suit in 2014.

The law will also impact large businesses, as the mandate that all businesses with over 50 full-time employees provide coverage to their employees will go into effect after a one-year delay. Additionally, other delayed mandates will take effect throughout the year.

The law’s biggest test will arise late in 2014: the second-year price of insurance on the exchanges.

Be sure to sign up for Katherine Restrepo’s Health Care Update for regular reports on implementation of the federal health care law.

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