Oh, by the way: Obama just quietly suspended ObamaCare’s individual mandate until 2016

posted at 11:21 am on March 12, 2014 by Allahpundit

He forgot to mention it. Minor oversight, could have happened to anybody.

The mandate, remember, has already been suspended this year for people who had their old insurance canceled and who now regard it as a “hardship” to purchase insurance on the supposedly affordable Affordable Care Act exchanges. For them, as Ezra Klein put it at the time, “ObamaCare itself is the hardship.” But there’s an obvious problem with that scheme: The “hardship” exemption applies only to people who used to have insurance, and it applies only for this enrollment period. The mandate penalty would continue to bite people who didn’t have insurance before, which seems unfair, and it’d be back in full force this fall even for people who did have it, right around the time that America votes in the midterms.

And so a political problem gets a policy solution. Again.

That seven-page technical bulletin includes a paragraph and footnote that casually mention that a rule in a separate December 2013 bulletin would be extended for two more years, until 2016. Lo and behold, it turns out this second rule, which was supposed to last for only a year, allows Americans whose coverage was cancelled to opt out of the mandate altogether…

But amid the post-rollout political backlash, last week the agency created a new category: Now all you need to do is fill out a form attesting that your plan was cancelled and that you “believe that the plan options available in the [ObamaCare] Marketplace in your area are more expensive than your cancelled health insurance policy” or “you consider other available policies unaffordable.”

This lax standard—no formula or hard test beyond a person’s belief—at least ostensibly requires proof such as an insurer termination notice. But people can also qualify for hardships for the unspecified nonreason that “you experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance,” which only requires “documentation if possible.” And yet another waiver is available to those who say they are merely unable to afford coverage, regardless of their prior insurance. In a word, these shifting legal benchmarks offer an exemption to everyone who conceivably wants one.

In other words, the new and improved “hardship” exemption isn’t limited to people who used to have insurance. Anyone can claim it, purely on their own say-so that they can’t afford it, which is an … interesting loophole coming from a guy who’s now going around the country nudging people to drop their cable and cell phones to pay for his expensive insurance instead. I wonder if he’s seen this graph. I’m thinking he probably has:

afford

Yuval Levin saw the new suspension coming back in December, when the “hardship” exemption was originally extended to people with un-canceled plans:

[T]he individual mandate is probably done for.

I would now assume that no one will pay the individual mandate fine for 2014. The administration may give up on the mandate in the course of the ongoing enrollment period if the political pressure is great enough, or they may keep up the pretense of it through the end of the enrollment period in March (when it will have finished its work, so to speak, since its purpose is to influence choices made during that period) but then exempt everyone from it as they did with the employer mandate for this year. Having now exempted from the fine people whose policies were canceled and who haven’t spent the money to get more expensive and less appealing new coverage, the politics of still applying the fine to everyone else who is uninsured this year will probably just not be sustainable, and the politics of exempting people from it (especially if they can hold out on doing so until after March 31) will be far too appealing for this White House to resist. They may claim the mandate will be back in 2015, but if they do exempt everyone from it in 2014 it will be hard to bring it back.

The IRS was never going to enforce the mandate strictly this year, but now they don’t have to enforce it at all. Anyone who’s declined to buy insurance by April 1st can simply claim hardship and that’s that. This makes three major rule changes to the core components of ObamaCare in the past month alone: On February 10th, the White House delayed the employer mandate for small businesses until 2016, and then, 10 days ago, it extended for two more years the rule allowing insurers to un-cancel plans for consumers who want their old, cheaper coverage back. Little did we know until now that, on the same day, they also all but suspended the individual mandate until 2016. And like Levin says, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever bring it back. Why would the next president, eager to begin his/her term on a strong note, want to reinstate a harsh financial penalty for noncompliance with O-Care when the guy who signed the law was unwilling to? The mandate is dead. Obama’s repealing ObamaCare himself, piece by piece. And he’s creating a two-tiered, less sustainable health-insurance system in the process.

Two questions, though. One: Why extend/delay all of these components until 2016, when they’ll land in Democrats’ laps during an election year yet again? Why not 2017 so that they’re off the table for the next election too? I assume that’s because Democrats want to keep the next extension in their back pocket for a well-timed unveiling during the 2016 campaign. Imagine the headline in May of that year, when Hillary and her Republican challenger are going toe to toe: “Consumers spared higher premiums this fall as Obama waives regulations again.” Democrats will drink in the glory and gratitude of systematically undoing the crap they dumped on America in the first place. Two: Why do this in secret, with little fanfare? If this is all about politics in November, why not trumpet it? “Yes! You too can now be exempt from the mandate!” One obvious reason is that they’re eager to get as many sign-ups as possible before the March 31st deadline and don’t want to do say or do anything that might discourage that. But in that case, why did they reveal the new mandate extension before the deadline had passed rather than later? Odd. The other reason to keep things quiet, I suppose, is that it’s simply too humiliating for the White House to admit that a provision they fought all the way to the Supreme Court to protect is now being punted into oblivion because it’s so radioactive to Democrats. So they’re going to let people who want/need the exemption discover it on their own. If the IRS phones to find out why someone hasn’t bought insurance, the agent will presumably ask if they’d like to claim a “hardship” exemption and the answer inevitably will be yes. No muss, no fuss.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 2 3 4

Jeez, I’m crushed! Welcome back.

dogsoldier on March 12, 2014 at 6:13 PM

:)

Thank you, fighter.

Schadenfreude on March 12, 2014 at 6:14 PM

It is official: Obama just blew up Obamacare.

SubmarineDoc on March 12, 2014 at 6:03 PM

He sure did.

dogsoldier on March 12, 2014 at 6:14 PM

OT, but not really, seeing as how we are talking constitutionality and all: Sheila Jackson Lee thinks the Constitution was adopted 400 years ago. I feel like I’m living in a cartoon.

ClownsToTheLeftOfMe on March 12, 2014 at 6:18 PM

3rd party groups should air ads telling young people they’ve been had – no mandate, no penalty. And you can cancel your sticker shock BOcare plan if you want.

matthew8787 on March 12, 2014 at 6:20 PM

Murphy, wow, thank you!

————–
Scumhag weighs in

Schadenfreude on March 12, 2014 at 5:57 PM

Well, never mind then. There’s a whole darn thread about it already! That will teach me to take a break and work a little.

ClownsToTheLeftOfMe on March 12, 2014 at 6:21 PM

frank on March 12, 2014 at 5:29 PM
I read most all comments, except sometimes during the QotD, when I get in late, I just skip…figuring that the extraterrestrials understand that it’s kind of an open house, all come and go as they please, snack, drink, dance, argue some, are friendly, play music and leave.
On serious note, I couldn’t locate the story about your dad and I don’t know why you call him “a triple headed monster”. It doesn’t seem to be anything bad, but rather something good.
Not now, not ever, but if so inclined, pls. consider typing a bit more about it. I’m convinced he was highly intelligent and an asset to your family and the USA.
Schadenfreude on March 12, 2014 at 5:33 PM

I typed out a comment but for some reason it didn’t post. Anyway you have a really good memory.

A three-headed monster, or triple headed monster, was a pilot who had additional ratings of navigator and bombardier. Very rare.

At the time of his death he was a major and a few months shy of a phd in mathematics. He was 30.

Not bad for the youngest of 13 kids of immigrants who came here penniless from the Ukraine.

frank on March 12, 2014 at 6:24 PM

Obama can’t promise risk corridor subsidies to insurers beyond year 3.

Many will bail long before that if there is no mandate.

There is NO WAY these delays will save a few endangered dem senators, so I am not getting the logic here.

matthew8787 on March 12, 2014 at 6:29 PM

Schadenfreude on March 12, 2014 at 6:14 PM

Welcome back … tricky finding which thread you’re on … you move too fast.

gh on March 12, 2014 at 6:29 PM

frank on March 12, 2014 at 6:24 PM

Somehow that link didn’t post the way I wanted it to. It should have been separate from the text. Back to Bmore’s tutorial!

frank on March 12, 2014 at 6:29 PM

Frank, thank you. Am reading now.

What an incredible loss and what cool heritage, and what he would say to Ukraine now…and how much he accomplished, so early. The good die young.

Glad you’re here. Thanks again for the links.

Schadenfreude on March 12, 2014 at 6:31 PM

Welcome back … tricky finding which thread you’re on … you move too fast.

gh on March 12, 2014 at 6:29 PM

Thank you, gh.

Schadenfreude on March 12, 2014 at 6:31 PM

Don’t drink too much, Dire :)

Schadenfreude on March 12, 2014 at 6:12 PM

Only in moderation..Only in moderation..:):)

Dire Straits on March 12, 2014 at 6:35 PM

Indeed, frank. Went to read and couldn’t.

Here are the steps:

1. load the link, highlight it, hit the right mouse button to Copy

2. Open a comment box.

3. Type any word, ex “Here’s the link”.

4. Drag cursor over the words to highlight, then click on the blue ling box, on top of the comment box.

5. Delete anything you might find in there.

6. Hit the right mouse button, then Paste (to pasted the copied link)

7. Close, hit OK, to get out of the blue link box.

8. Type some more in your comment, if you want, or not.

9. Submit comment.

It’ll be way easier once you get the hang of it.

Plus, there are other ways…but this will work.

Schadenfreude on March 12, 2014 at 6:36 PM

frank, I got it. It’s the book. I will order it.

Schadenfreude on March 12, 2014 at 6:40 PM

This law reminds me of an old Laural and Hardy bit that starts out with who’s on first. Come to think of it, dear leader does sorta resemble Stan. It’s just that we aren’t laughing.

Kissmygrits on March 12, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Frank, thank you. Am reading

now.
What an incredible loss and what cool heritage, and what he would say to Ukraine now…and how much he accomplished, so early. The good die young.
Glad you’re here. Thanks again for the links.
Schadenfreude on March 12, 2014 at 6:31 PM

Up through my generation all the males served on both sides of my family. We’ve lost in WWII and Vietnam but we also have many members who served in both of those conflicts and survived.

Hard to know what he would say about Ukraine but I’d like to think he’d say it none of our business. My own children have grown up on stories of our service. All know that if they decide to serve they do so without my blessing.

Iraq and Afghanistan, which I initially supported, have turned me against it. Going to my children’s athletic events and hearing and seeing young people, some known to me, and others not. Well at some point I just started to ask why. Seeing all the crony capitalism & war profiteering from the liked of DiFi made me dig a bit deeper. What I found, and is my opinion & mine alone, is that if you scratch any conflict since the Clintons in Serbia to this very day, you’ll find it’s all in service to oligarchs.

The neocons want endless war let them sign their kids up to fight it.

I’ve gone from hawk to an extreme dove. Probably an unpopular opinion around here but believe me I’m not the only vet who holds it.

The few I know who were holdouts came over to our side once Paul Ryan’s treachery looted their benefits.

It appears I’ve rambled; sorry.

frank on March 12, 2014 at 6:52 PM

gh, I tried to leave this comment on the TEMS thread but the servers are not on the level, yet.

Here it is

Was ‘fraid to get in here…but gh goaded me.

Thank you all, especially Ed.

He’s the best man on Earth HA.

He’s even a better man than just on HA, but I don’t want that “lovely”, as Cindy said, head to get too big :)

Mrs. Morrissey would have to set him straight.

Schadenfreude on March 12, 2014 at 6:54 PM

frank on March 12, 2014 at 6:52 PM

Fully understood, all of it. Can’t disagree.

Are you the author of the book, or is one of your siblings?

No need to answer now. For protection pls. do another time.

Schadenfreude on March 12, 2014 at 6:58 PM

Plus, fran, never to worry about “rambling”.

Few have better stories to tell.

Schadenfreude on March 12, 2014 at 6:59 PM

Sorr, s/b frank.

Schadenfreude on March 12, 2014 at 6:59 PM

The more he implements these delays by executive fiat, the more The One’s supposed “high ground” during the shutdown over delaying/fixing by legislative compromise begins to look like a giant sinking hole in the ground.

But our side really needs to start driving this point home. The shutdown at this point was truly a stroke of genius on our side because it puts Obama’s current actions in precisely the right kind of bold relief.

Our side wanted to work legislatively to fix or delay the law; Obama on principle said no way, the law is the law, etc. & so on. Now, he just rewrites the law at will.

bobcalco on March 12, 2014 at 7:03 PM

frank on March 12, 2014 at 6:52 PM
Fully understood, all of it. Can’t disagree.
Are you the author of the book, or is one of your siblings?
No need to answer now. For protection pls. do another time.
Schadenfreude on March 12, 2014 at 6:58 PM

No. I tried to post the like separately as a means give citation to three-headed monster but the link ended up in the text. I have no connection to the book or anyone in it.

frank on March 12, 2014 at 7:07 PM

Plus, fran, never to worry about “rambling”.
Few have better stories to tell.
Schadenfreude on March 12, 2014 at 6:59 PM

Thanks. Wait till you hear the story of my grandmother who, with my grandfather, built her house with her own hands. She had a husband who died an untimely death and 11 of her 13 children died untimely deaths.

She died with uncashed death benefits & social security checks. Everybody told her she was nuts. Her reasoning: “This country good to me. How can I take?”

Now THAT’s a story. But it’s a story for another time:)

frank on March 12, 2014 at 7:17 PM

And Lord knows we could use more schadenfreude at Hot Air right now.

There Goes the Neighborhood on March 12, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Do you have a line to the Lord?

Schadenfreude on March 12, 2014 at 1:20 PM

So happy to see you back, Schadenfreude!

Thank you, Ed!

Back On Topic: It’sI’m.The.Law.

ShainS on March 12, 2014 at 7:30 PM

How many times are you people going to allow this scumbag, POS to break the law by going around congress to change the law? The law that was supposed to be so great for us. The law that was shoved down our throats against our wishes. The law that is so great, he has had to make numerous illegal changes to. This man doesn’t deserve to live in this country, much less run it. He deserve to be in Gitmo for eternity. I prefer the electric chair, or hanging.

F_This on March 12, 2014 at 8:45 PM

It is official: Obama just blew up Obamacare.
SubmarineDoc on March 12, 2014 at 6:03 PM
He sure did.
dogsoldier on March 12, 2014 at 6:14 PM
Obama is Obamacares own worse enemy ironically.

sorrowen on March 12, 2014 at 9:38 PM

ObamaCare as performance art.

/throw in a couple of ferns and you’ve got it made

LashRambo on March 12, 2014 at 10:41 PM

The more he implements these delays by executive fiat, the more The One’s supposed “high ground” during the shutdown over delaying/fixing by legislative compromise begins to look like a giant sinking hole in the ground.

But our side really needs to start driving this point home. The shutdown at this point was truly a stroke of genius on our side because it puts Obama’s current actions in precisely the right kind of bold relief.

Our side wanted to work legislatively to fix or delay the law; Obama on principle said no way, the law is the law, etc. & so on. Now, he just rewrites the law at will.

bobcalco on March 12, 2014 at 7:03 PM

What fun is total control if you can’t exercise it capriciously?

slickwillie2001 on March 12, 2014 at 10:55 PM

Ok wait, that first paragraph threw me off a bit. So who is it that needs to sign up? I would like to see what the insurance co’s do with that, and the IRS just trew up there hands and went home.

jake49 on March 13, 2014 at 12:34 AM

ShainS on March 12, 2014 at 7:30 PM

Thank you so much, for this and your previous lamentations about it.

Schadenfreude on March 13, 2014 at 1:24 AM

IMPEACH NOW !

TX-96 on March 13, 2014 at 6:36 AM

When I so pressingly urge a strict observance of all the laws, let me not be understood as saying that there are no bad laws, nor that grievances may not arise for the redress of which no legal provisions have been made. I mean to say no such thing. But I do mean to say that although bad laws, if they exist, should be repealed as soon as possible, still, while they continue in force, for the sake of example they should be religiously observed. – Abraham Lincoln, “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions”: Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, january 27, 1838

de rigueur on March 13, 2014 at 11:36 AM

I feel for people who actually spend money on these exchanges, given the financial disarray it is in.

It will be interesting to see what the big corporations say about their future health plans. Most of their plans presently do not qualify under Democrat Obamacare ™ and would be cancelled (i.e. not “grandfathered”).

It’s time responsible organizations put their cards on the table with this childish administration – are they about to trash all of their employees health plans? Do you think they will not concern themselves about that backlash?

Stop worrying about the electoral consequences, the reality of Obamacare ™ radioactivity is washing up on the beaches now.

virgo on March 14, 2014 at 12:33 AM

It goes like this “we will put off all the bad stuff until you have reelected us then we will stick it to you big time.

I don’t think so. Time to dump anyone who voted for this debacle

scboy on March 14, 2014 at 12:34 PM

Comment pages: 1 2 3 4