(Updated 11:23 a.m.) It took a few weeks for people to notice, but U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty’s vote to delay penalties for individuals and large employers under the Affordable Care Act got the attention of MoveOn.org this week.
However, she wasn’t the only Connecticut Congressional delegate to vote in favor of delaying the employer mandate. U.S. Rep. Jim Himes also voted in favor of it, but he didn’t join her in voting against the individual mandate.
It was Esty’s vote to delay the individual mandate, seen as a crucial part of getting everyone into the exchanges to purchase insurance that drew the attention of MoveOn.org.
Petitions have been started criticizing 14 of the 22 Democratic members of Congress who voted in favor of a bill delaying the individual mandate, not the delay of the employer mandate. The employer mandate passed the U.S. House 264 to 161 with eight not voting on July 17. That same day 22 Democrats joined the Republican majority in voting 251-174 to delay the individual mandate. Himes did not join Esty in voting to delay the individual mandate.
The MoveOn.org petition targeting Esty asks: “Are you curious to know the reason(s) Elizabeth Esty, freshman Dem. – CT 5th Congressional District, voted with the Republican majority in the House last week to delay the individual mandate for the Affordable Health Care Act? I am.”
The author of the petition was Greg Melville.
“I asked Elizabeth, since she is my new Congressperson,” Melville said Wednesday in an email explaining why he took out the petition.
As of 10 p.m. on Wednesday night, 493 individuals had signed Esty’s petition.
Perhaps Esty drew attention to herself by being the only member of the Connecticut delegation to send out a press release explaining her position on July 17.
In the statement, Esty explained that President Barack Obama’s administration already had announced it would delay enforcement of the employer mandate until the beginning of 2015.
“Make no mistake — the reforms of the Affordable Care Act are important steps forward that are already making a positive difference for folks across Connecticut and across the country,” Esty said. “The individual mandate is a critical part of the Affordable Care Act, that has been upheld by the Supreme Court, and that I fully support.”
The freshman Congresswoman added that “based on the concerns I’m hearing from small business owners and folks on the ground in my district, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to allow folks an extra year to prepare and figure this out.”
There has never been a penalty for small businesses with under 51 employees under the Affordable Care Act. The July 17 vote only applied to large employers, most of whom already offer healthcare to their employees.
Kevin Counihan, CEO of Access Health CT, has said eliminating the penalties for large employers doesn’t impact implementation of the new law since 98 percent of large employers already offer coverage to their employees.
“The optics were worse than the substance,” Counihan said last month.
Aside from Esty and Himes, the rest of the Connecticut House delegation, including U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro, John Larson, and Joe Courtney, voted against the delay of the employer mandate and Esty was the only one to vote in favor of the individual mandate.