Keeping in mind that the pressure for delay will be intense from the states where exchanges are not functioning a month or more from now – which would likely include every state in the federal exchange – and that insurers will insist that they can’t delay the mandate without also delaying the goodies (pre-existing, community rating, etc.), there are a couple of things that I think could come next. Here are, broadly speaking, five different scenarios:
1. The White House could call for/implement via executive order or some other unilateral step a real delay of the individual mandate, just owning the problem or framing it as “we won’t enforce the penalty for 2014″ (likely bringing on a lawsuit from insurers, unless you find a way to make them whole).
2. The White House could call for an expansion of the open enrollment period (but that wouldn’t solve the problem of a ton of people getting dinged with penalties after the Feb 15th date we – and the admin! – apparently just learned about; it doesn’t really matter that they’re pro-rated, you’d have millions getting hit by it).
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