ObamaCare supporters just pretending lax hardship exemption doesn’t exist

posted at 4:41 pm on March 18, 2014 by Mary Katharine Ham

Appearing with Juan Williams on “The O’Reilly Factor” last night, I don’t think I evinced enough shock at this argument simply because it was so surprising it didn’t sink in until later. After O’Reilly opens by explaining that expansions to the “hardship exemption” to Obamacare’s individual mandate are essentially obliterating the mandate by letting everyone get out of it, Williams declared this a fantasy no fewer than four times.

Specifically, the idea that the hardship exemption has been expanded to a point that makes the individual mandate de facto delayed, or at least willfully unenforced, is a “fantasy” of “right-wing blogs…to sabotage Obamacare.” Juan maintains the exemption is only for people who “had a fire in your home or if you’re a victim of spousal abuse,” and other major, verifiable hardships.

Juan is right that is what the hardship exemption was meant to be. But it’s far more than that now, thanks to President Obama’s administration and panicking Democrats who are more than happy to sabotage their own law with a Whack-a-Mole approach to every potential political problem the law precipitates. Let’s go back to December:

Individuals whose health plans were canceled will now automatically qualify for a “hardship exemption” from the mandate. If they can’t or don’t sign up for a new plan, they don’t have to pay the tax. They can also get a special category of ObamaCare insurance designed for people under age 30.

***
So merry Christmas. If ObamaCare’s benefit and income redistribution requirements made your old, cheaper, better health plan illegal, you now have the option of going without coverage without the government taking your money as punishment. You can also claim the tautological consolation of an ObamaCare hardship exemption due to ObamaCare itself.

The wording from HHS allows exemptions for those who “experienced financial or domestic circumstances, including an unexpected natural or human-caused event, such that he or she had a significant, unexpected increase in essential expenses that prevented him or her from obtaining coverage under a qualified health plan.”

Perhaps supporters can be forgiven for forgetting that months-old blow to the Worst Jenga Tower Ever Constructed in the barrage of blows the administration has delivered unto it over the past months. But how do they forget this week’s, ahem, adjustment? Peter Suderman:

[December's decision] weakened the mandate. An update to the exemption rendered it nearly useless. Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page noted that the hardship exemption had quietly been extended through 2016, and that the verification required to obtain the exemption was less than strict:

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.

So, the White House isn’t officially delaying the mandate. Instead, the administration is declining to enforce it on anyone who asks to be exempt.

In some sense, it’s like used car pricing, or cable company discounts. Officially, the price is what’s on the sticker. But if you make even a token effort to bargain, or half-heartedly threaten to cancel service, you can get the price lowered.

But Juan doesn’t have to take my word for it, or the Wall Street Journal’s, or Suderman’s. Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic, who doesn’t see the administration’s non-enforcement as a dire threat now, but acknowledges it exists and could be problematic later:

The CBO report does raise one awkward question for Democrats. The law includes a “hardship waiver,” which allows people to avoid paying the fine if buying affordable insurance would be difficult. And the Obama Administration has made clear it intends to interpret that provision broadly, to the point that avoiding the mandate next year should be easy. Legally that’s probably fine. And allowing lots of exemptions, at least early on, has certain logic to it. With a big program like this, slow, gradual transitions make sense. Massachusetts had plenty of exemptions when it introduced its version of reform.

But if the mandate is as important as CBO and the experts say, then at some point it needs to become a real and potent threat—more than it would seem to be right now. Otherwise, it won’t do much good and Obamacare’s enrollment numbers could look as bad as those from the Republican replacement bill.

Is the sabotage Juan alleges simply the reporting of the exemption parameters? But how would that work as sabotage if it were indeed “fantasy?”

And, if it’s sabotage to mention the lax exemption rules, then why is President Obama sabotaging Obamacare while ostensibly selling it to young invincibles on Seacrest?

“What happens is, if you do not sign up by March 31st, then you will not be able to sign up again until November. So if you want health insurance this year, you need to make sure that you are signing up by March 31st. Now, if you cannot afford health insurance, even with the subsidies and the tax credits, then there’s a hardship exemption and you will not suffer any penalty. If you can afford it and you just decide you just don’t want to get it, because your attitude is, ‘nothing’s ever going to happen to me,’ then you’ll be charged a penalty. And the reason is, if you end up having an accident and you end up in the emergency room, somebody’s gotta pay for it, and that somebody is folks who’ve been responsible about getting health insurance.”

Let’s not fool ourselves. Even if no one mentioned this exemption in the news, Reddit would find it and inform every 20-30-something in America of how to avoid their fines. For non-Redditors, there’d be a Yahoo! Answers thread with a link to the Reddit thread. For non-Yahoo! Answers people, there’d be a Facebook post that’d go viral with step-by-step instructions for exemptioning. And, for those who aren’t on Facebook, there’d be a chain e-mail. No amount of cute LeBron James ads is going to outdo the American determination to avoid the IRS. I doubt teaching your mom to ruin social networks for you is going to help the government either.

And, once again, in expecting all of us who opposed the law to keep our mouths shut about the administration’s undermining of it, Obamacare supporters require the law’s opponents to be more dedicated to its success than the President who declares it his legacy. To use one of the president’s favorite words, that’s unfair.

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Juan Williams LIVES in a fantasy world where Obama is ALWAYS right! He KNOWS a fantasy when he sees one! How could you DOUBT his word, MKH ????

/s

;->

PolAgnostic on March 18, 2014 at 4:47 PM

Honest question, MKH – when does “Fair and Balanced” finally recognize the people of the Left are “Unfair and Unhinged”?

PolAgnostic on March 18, 2014 at 4:48 PM

MKH. Do they keep a baby bottle and pacifier in the Fox green room for him?

Walter L. Newton on March 18, 2014 at 4:54 PM

…saw this!…you looked good Juan looked stupid…and BOR interrupting you all the time is starting not to faze you!

KOOLAID2 on March 18, 2014 at 4:55 PM

Appearing with Juan Williams on “The O’Reilly Factor” last night, I don’t think I evinced enough shock at this argument simply because it was so surprising it didn’t sink in until later.

That’s okay champ! You’ll get him next time. And his kid was at CPAC so Juan isn’t pure evil. I can’t say the same about many of his leftist colleagues.

But it is interesting. I recently read a book about a town in Poland whose population was about 50% Jewish. During the course of the “final solution,” most of these Jews died from starvation or at Auschwitz. Yet- whenever any of the bad stuff happened none of the locals claimed to have known what was going on. I liken Obamacare supporters denials to that. They know that bad stuff is happening but they simply refuse to acknowledge the truth.

Happy Nomad on March 18, 2014 at 4:57 PM

WARNING: THREADJACK IN PROGRESS:

Ok, all you math wizards….have at it.

Hardest math question….evah.

BobMbx on March 18, 2014 at 4:57 PM

Yeah, I was waiting for you to rip him to shreds over this.

rbj on March 18, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Juan Williams LIVES in a fantasy world where Obama is ALWAYS right!

PolAgnostic on March 18, 2014 at 4:47 PM

Juan Williams is one of many Americans who are color blind. And I don’t mean that in the medical sense or in the idea that he just sees a human being without labels.

The rat-eared coward’s numbers and level of support are artificially high due to pigmentation and color-blind supporters.

Happy Nomad on March 18, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Allowing people to get out by saying they have a “belief” that the plan is bad or too expensive is Obama letting everyone who can read opt out, without openly killing his signature legislation. What a coward.

LASue on March 18, 2014 at 5:05 PM

Allowing people to get out by saying they have a “belief” that the plan is bad or too expensive is Obama letting everyone who can read opt out, without openly killing his signature legislation. What a coward.

LASue on March 18, 2014 at 5:05 PM

Liberals did the same thing with No-Doc home mortgages, and that crashed the economy. Round 2 on the way.

BobMbx on March 18, 2014 at 5:08 PM

Good news guys. Next week’s numbers are in and enrollment is up to 6 million! Put that in your pipe and smoke it wingnuts!

forest on March 18, 2014 at 5:09 PM

Typical lefty’s delusional bubble. Nothing more to see here.

Oxymoron on March 18, 2014 at 5:13 PM

Juan Williams “Lies! ALL lies!

GarandFan on March 18, 2014 at 5:18 PM

How can you sabotage Obamacare? Obamacare is the sabotage!

Rich H on March 18, 2014 at 5:27 PM

. . . . . Is the sabotage Juan alleges simply the reporting of the exemption parameters? But how would that work as sabotage if it were indeed “fantasy?”

And, if it’s sabotage to mention the lax exemption rules, then why is President Obama sabotaging Obamacare while ostensibly selling it to young invincibles on Seacrest?
.
. . . . . in expecting all of us who opposed the law to keep our mouths shut about the administration’s undermining of it, Obamacare supporters require the law’s opponents to be more dedicated to its success than the President who declares it his legacy. To use one of the president’s favorite words, that’s unfair.

Mary Katharine Ham on March 18, 2014 at 4:41 PM

.
Mary’, this column is sabotaging the ‘Affordable Care Act’.
.
So … knock it OFF !

listens2glenn on March 18, 2014 at 5:31 PM

But these Obamacare posts are about whistling past the graveyard, by next Novemeber Democrats will be openly running on the ACA. Mark my words.
libfreeordie on December 20, 2013 at 10:14 AM

Schadenfreude on March 18, 2014 at 5:33 PM

It’s Bill, verby, and Mary Katherine Ham.

22044 on March 18, 2014 at 5:34 PM

Good news guys. Next week’s numbers are in and enrollment is up to 6 million! Put that in your pipe and smoke it wingnuts!

forest on March 18, 2014 at 5:09 PM

.
Better yet . . . how many of those who’ve enrolled have paid ?

listens2glenn on March 18, 2014 at 5:34 PM

Mary Katherine Ham’s inexplicable affinity for Williams must be ascribed to a personal comity on the set.

Certainly Williams is not an honest man. He is not nearly so stupid as to believe half the points he argues in carrying water for Obama and Democrats.

Juan has a serious “tell” for when he is lying and he knows he is lying and is trying to keep from being exposed. He raises his voice, even when there is no crosstalk or reason to. And then he will continually interrupt those who reply to his obfuscations to block their points from being made.

Watch him next time he is on.

Adjoran on March 18, 2014 at 5:37 PM

How can you sabotage Obamacare? Obamacare is the sabotage!

Rich H on March 18, 2014 at 5:27 PM

.
I second that motion (notion?).

listens2glenn on March 18, 2014 at 5:38 PM

Ms. Ham didn’t look like she was having fun while trapped between the clueless and stupefying Juan Williams and the bellicose and bombastic Bill O’Riley.

The truth of the matter is that Juan Williams is an apologist and foot soldier for Obama. Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster – ask anyone who’s trapped in it. But just like the Lost Legions of ancient Rome, Juan and his cadre will fight until they are overwhelmed by circumstances.

CiLH1 on March 18, 2014 at 5:39 PM

Watch him next time he is on.

Adjoran on March 18, 2014 at 5:37 PM

.
I have . . . . . you’re right.

listens2glenn on March 18, 2014 at 5:40 PM

Juan has a serious “tell” for when he is lying and he knows he is lying and is trying to keep from being exposed. He raises his voice, even when there is no crosstalk or reason to. And then he will continually interrupt those who reply to his obfuscations to block their points from being made.

Watch him next time he is on.

Adjoran on March 18, 2014 at 5:37 PM

Every liberal on TV does that. They also start talking faster.

CurtZHP on March 18, 2014 at 5:44 PM

BOR: “Look”…”Listen”…”All right?” “Look”…”Listen”…”All right?” “Look”…”Listen”…”All right?” “Look”…”Listen”…”All right?” “Look”…”Listen”…”All right?” “Look”…”Listen”…”All right?” “Look”…”Listen”…”All right?””Look”…”Listen”…”All right?”

Utterly unwatchable.

SickofLibs on March 18, 2014 at 5:48 PM

If you can afford it and you just decide you just don’t want to get it, because your attitude is, ‘nothing’s ever going to happen to me,’ then you’ll be charged a penalty. And the reason is, if you end up having an accident and you end up in the emergency room, somebody’s gotta pay for it, and that somebody is folks who’ve been responsible about getting health insurance.”

The people who pay the penalty, rather than get O’care are still going to visit the ER when they get the sniffles. Does the hospital get to charge them for their visit – or do they claim “no insurance” and get free treatment, like our illegal alien friends from down south? Somehow, I don’t think the $295 penalty comes close to offsetting a visit to the ER – but evidently the Preezy does.

Hill60 on March 18, 2014 at 5:50 PM

forest on March 18, 2014 at 5:09 PM

6 million out of what,200 million.

docflash on March 18, 2014 at 6:11 PM

What about all those IRS agents that were supposed to be hired to police this…?

d1carter on March 18, 2014 at 6:22 PM

I am still confused as to who still has to buy “insurance” or pay a tax penalty and who is exempted.

Tinker on March 18, 2014 at 6:24 PM

What about all those IRS agents that were supposed to be hired to police this…?

d1carter on March 18, 2014 at 6:22 PM

They’re at the range.

CurtZHP on March 18, 2014 at 6:34 PM

I used to think juan had some smarts but then he got knifed in the back by his liberal friends and he stayed stuck on stupid and remains on the plantation..

crosshugger on March 18, 2014 at 6:39 PM

forest on March 18, 2014 at 5:09 PM

speaking of pretending.

dmacleo on March 18, 2014 at 6:41 PM

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.

Is one’s claim of an exemption auditable by the IRS? Anyone?

slickwillie2001 on March 18, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Juan Williams LIVES in a fantasy world where Obama is ALWAYS right!

PolAgnostic on March 18, 2014 at 4:47 PM

Truth is, Juan Williams is a very stupid man. He’s a token black, and on Fox News AND the other major news outlets, standards have been lowered as an offering to the Holy Diversity.

I see parallels in this phenomenon and the way legally-racist gerrymandering has created the IQ-desert known as the CBC.

slickwillie2001 on March 18, 2014 at 6:48 PM

Could it possibly be that “The Affordable Care Act” isn’t all that affordable?
Williams is a paid shill for the progressive democrats, I wouldn’t even talk to him – no need, I already know where he stands – In desperate defense of the black president.

lel2007 on March 18, 2014 at 7:43 PM

Do people really still listen to Juan these days? And for that matter… people still watch O’Reilly? Really???

Ukiah on March 18, 2014 at 8:14 PM

Top 10 Acceptable Hardship Reasons:
10. Heating bills for most severe winter in decades
9. Gambling Addiction
8. iPhone5
7. PS4
6. BitCoin Crash
5. Invested in Self-improvement (hair extensions and acrylic nails)
4. Bailed out spouse/parent/sibling
3. Spring Break Trip BooYah!
2. Designer Handbag Collection

And the #1 Acceptable Hardship Reason: Saving for my Dream Wedding

kooly on March 18, 2014 at 8:38 PM

May I add “Missing Malaysian Jet Liner” to your TOP TEN List?

Pelosi Schmelosi on March 18, 2014 at 8:48 PM

I got the impression Juan has not kept up with the status of the hardship exemption-I don’t think he’s current-he seemed stuck in the 2012 version.

And the #1 Acceptable Hardship Reason: Saving for my Dream Wedding

kooly on March 18, 2014 at 8:38 PM

No, no . Shoes! Shoes are #1.

talkingpoints on March 18, 2014 at 8:54 PM

Hardship categories and documentation required along with application for exemption.
(Number 14 is the catch-all.)

1. You were homeless.
-> None

2. You were evicted in the past 6 months or were
facing eviction or foreclosure.
-> Copy of eviction or foreclosure notice

3. You received a shut-off notice from a utility
->Copy of shut-off notice from a utility company
company.

4. You recently experienced domestic violence.
->None

5. You recently experienced the death of a close
family member.
-> Copy of death certificate, copy of death notice
from newspaper, or copy of other official notice
of death

6. You experienced a fire, flood, or other natural
human-caused disaster that caused substantial
damage to your property.
->Copy of police or fire report, insurance claim,
or other document from government agency,
private entity, or news source documenting event

7. You filed for bankruptcy in the last 6 months.
->Copy of bankruptcy filing

8. You had medical expenses you couldn’t pay in the
last 24 months.
->Copies of medical bills

9. You experienced unexpected increases in
necessary expenses due to caring for an ill,
disabled, or aging family member.
->Copies of receipts related to care

10. You expect to claim a child as a tax dependent
who’s been denied coverage in Medicaid and the
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and
another person is required by court order to give
medical support to the child.
->Copy of medical support order AND copies of
eligibility notices for Medicaid and CHIP showing
that the child has been denied coverage

11. As a result of an eligibility appeals decision, you’re
eligible either for: 1) enrollment in a qualified
health plan (QHP) through the Marketplace,
2) lower costs on your monthly premiums, or
3) cost-sharing reductions for a time period when
you weren’t enrolled in a QHP through
the Marketplace.
->Copy of notice of appeals decision

12. You were determined ineligible for Medicaid
because your state didn’t expand eligibility for
Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
->Copy of notice of denial of eligibility for Medicaid

13. You received a notice saying that your current
health insurance plan is being cancelled,
and you consider the other plans available
unaffordable.
->Copy of notice of cancellation

14. You experienced another hardship in obtaining
health insurance.
->Please submit documentation if possible

lynncgb on March 18, 2014 at 9:06 PM

And the #1 Acceptable Hardship Reason: Saving for my Dream Wedding

kooly on March 18, 2014 at 8:38 PM

No, no . Shoes! Shoes are #1.

talkingpoints on March 18, 2014 at 8:54 PM

Come on, folks…

The number ONE reason is for short on cash is because you have been building your stockpile of ammo.

(That was easy.)

climbnjump on March 18, 2014 at 9:22 PM

And the #1 Acceptable Hardship Reason: Saving for my Dream Wedding

kooly on March 18, 2014 at 8:38 PM

No, no . Shoes! Shoes are #1.

talkingpoints on March 18, 2014 at 8:54 PM

Number ONE reason: I didn’t build that.

NapaConservative on March 19, 2014 at 12:35 PM

After the elections, what’s stopping Obama from changing the law back and fining all the people who don’t have health insurance?

mattmillburn on March 19, 2014 at 2:26 PM