Jennifer, you write, "There is no reason why you can't prevent mandates on those who don't self-insure." But that's just it: states cannot put mandates on any employers, whether they self-insure or not. The mandates are put on the insurance policies that insurance carriers sell.
The only way I see that the federal government could prevent states from putting mandates on insurance is if Congress makes drastic changes to or repeals the McCarran-Ferguson act which gives states the power to regulate insurance. Yanking power away from 50 state legislatures? Fat chance.
As for defining "affordable", I never said anything about "sleight of hand." The problem isn't deceit. It's that the definition of "affordable" will have to go through the political process, subject to interest group pressures, politicians, and all the rest. I think the last time government defined anything so as to expand liberty instead of expanding government power was in the late 1780s. That's why we should be concerned.