Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By delaying a requirement that all large employers provide health insurance, the Obama administration heads off the unseemly spectacle of companies vowing to cut jobs or workers’ hours to avoid the costly mandate.

But the late Tuesday action is not a free pass: It contributes to critics’ claims that the White House does not have the ability to launch its biggest legislative accomplishment on schedule.

“You trade off one set of painful stories for another set of painful stories,” Bob Kocher, a former Obama health policy advisor, said. “I would think that, if I’m an administration offiical today, it’s a way more troublesome news story for people to say that we’re not ready to launch.”

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