“I like the whooshing sound they make as theyfly by.”

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As a journalist, and lifelong procrastinator, I've always lovedthat Douglas Adams line. Apparently, so do Obama, Sebellius and thegang.

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After months of preparation, speculation and resignation, theObama Administration—or more specifically, Treasury—backed off theemployer mandate, essentially giving mid-to-large employers areprieve.

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This late-breaking story—on the cusp of a holiday—brought morequestions than answers.

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What does this mean for the exchanges? Nothing. Those remain ontrack.

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What about individuals? Unaffected. That mandate remains as is.Which is also why I fully expect exchange enrollment to move aheadas is.

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Why now? That's the tricky part. I can't help but think theholiday week played a part, but it hasn't stopped the critics fromjumping all over this already. Whether the checked-out public bitesis another matter entirely.

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I was fortunate enough—probably predictably so—to be out havingdrinks with a broker right after the news broke. We both agreedthis decision most likely had less to do with the administrationlistening to employer concerns than its own lack of readiness.

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Carriers have been ready for this. And I'd wager largeremployers were more prepared than the administration—or thepundits—give them credit for. They've known this was coming andhave known for months whether they would pay or play. This reprieveisn't changing any employer's mind. This administration, now prettywell known (or notorious) for granting waivers, seems to havewaived itself.

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Which brings me to the uncertainty factor. While this feels likeDodd-Frank all over again to me, the broker I spoke with was morethan cautiously optimistic.

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“I have at least another year of speaking and consulting aheadof me now,” he explained.

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That much is probably true. But I've argued all along thatbrokers still have a place in a post-reform world. This 11th-hourdelay doesn't change that. Sure, it will make for a harried fewweeks (or more) but at the end of the day, the mandate still loomson the horizon. And now we have another 12 months to worry aboutit. Let's just hope this doesn't turn into another case of beingcareful what we wish for.

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Denis Storey
Editor
[email protected]

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