Dem. Sen. Shaheen: So, we should really start thinking about that individual mandate delay now, no?

You know they’re all thinking about it, even if they won’t all say so. An excerpt from Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s letter to the White House on Tuesday, via Roll Call:

The Affordable Care Act has already positively impacted the lives of millions of Americans and once fully implemented, this law has great promise. However, I am concerned about the problems that people are experiencing with the Affordable Care Act’s website, As website glitches persist, we are losing valuable time to educate and enroll people in insurance plans. I also fear that people that have tried, and failed, to enroll online may become frustrated and not return to the website to try again at a later date.

Given the existing problems with the website, I urge you to consider extending open enrollment beyond the current end date of March 31, 2014. Allowing extra time for consumers is critically important so they have the opportunity to become familiar with the website, survey their options and enroll.

Further, in light of the difficulties individuals may be having with enrolling through, I ask that you clarify how the individual responsibility penalty will be administered and enforced. If an individual is unable to purchase health insurance due to technical problems with enrollment, they should not be penalized because of lack of coverage.

The difficulty that people in New Hampshire and in other states that are relying on the federally facilitated marketplaces are experiencing is incredibly frustrating and disappointing. For over three years, we have been waiting for the creation of the health insurance exchanges, which now in their fourth week of existence, are riddled with problems.

As ever, and as Shaheen acknowledges, it isn’t merely the glitchiness in and of itself behind her rationale for a delay in the individual mandate; but rather that the people most likely to give up in frustration over the glitches are the very same low-cost people the system needs the most in order to function. By resisting the increasingly obvious need to expand the enrollment period, it could very well be that the administration is already flirting with and indeed courting the dreaded spiral-scenario.

We know there might be at least a small handful of other Democratic senators who could feasibly support, or at least not openly oppose, the idea of backing off on the current deadline window, and Sen. Rubio already got out in front of the issue by introducing a bill to force a delay until the website is fixed. The situation is going to get real, and soon.

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