Rubio: I'm introducing a bill to delay the individual mandate until the ObamaCare website is fixed

Smart politics. It won’t pass, but then it’s not really designed to.

He said all he is calling for is a delay on the requirement until the U.S. General Accounting Office certifies the Web site is working and has been functioning for six consecutive months.

Rubio said he’s hopeful the measure will pass, especially as the deadline draws closer. “As weeks go on, there’s going to be a look for a solution to the problem. It’s not fair to punish people for buying something that’s not available,” he said. “Quite frankly, I think that’s where we’re going to have to wind up anyway. You saw yesterday, the White House didn’t rule out a delay. Jay Carney didn’t rule it out because they understand that the problems that this web site faces are significant and are going to be very difficult to fix in a number of weeks.”

Says one commenter in Headlines of Rubio’s bill, “It would collapse the insurance market.” Indeed it would, potentially. Delay the mandate for months and you’re all but guaranteeing that healthy uninsured people won’t sign up soon, which means insurers won’t have the new revenue they were banking on to cover sick people’s preexisting conditions. Voila — you’ve created the conditions for an industry death spiral. Democrats know it too, just like they also know that they’re not getting anything like single-payer through Congress so long as there’s a Republican majority in the House. So they have no choice but to oppose Rubio’s bill and defeat it in the Senate, even though doing so will make for terrible politics. There are lots and lots and lots of things the public doesn’t understand about ObamaCare, but one thing everyone understands is that it’s unfair to punish people for not doing something the government’s made it all but impossible for them to do. Rubio’s bill essentially forces Democrats to argue that it is fair somehow in the name of keeping the mandate in effect. Would they rather do that or would they rather delay the entire law to make sure the death spiral doesn’t happen?

A separate, mostly academic question related to this is whether delaying the mandate requires Congress to pass something or whether Obama can just decide to do it on his own. His defenders, naturally, say he has unilateral authority to do it; he could invoke a “hardship” exemption under the law to declare that, because isn’t working, “no affordable qualified health plan available through the Exchange” exists for millions of people and therefore they’re off the hook on paying any penalty. That would allow him to bypass Rubio and the Republicans in setting up some sort of mandate delay, but it doesn’t solve his death-spiral problem. If O-Care fans have now reached the point where they’re gaming out the best legal strategy for putting off the mandate for awhile, we’re well into “nightmare” territory for the left.

Exit question: How many uninsured low-information voters know that the penalty for not signing up for insurance isn’t $95 but rather the higher of $95 or one percent of income? Megan McArdle included that in her list of four overlooked points about the health-care rollout a few days ago and I’ve been wondering about it ever since. Imagine you’re 25, uninsured, and generating $40,000 in income annually. The media’s given you the impression lately that you’ll have to cough up 95 bucks next March if you don’t get covered. Not so; you’ll have to cough up 400 bucks. Imagine how surprised lots of uninsured people will be when they finally find out how much they’re in for.