Why not delay the penalty, just in case? Attacking the so-called individual mandate makes for great politics but following through on the delay would destabilize the new and vulnerable insurance market. Next year, the law will oblige insurance companies to accept pretty much anyone, regardless of age or health. The trade-off is that everyone will be required to buy into the system so that insurance companies can have enough healthy customers to keep premiums for everyone reasonable. The penalty against individuals lacking health-care coverage is a crucial tool in the effort to drive people into the new system. Delay it, and you’ll get fewer people signing up in the first part of next year, and insurance companies will demand, with good reason, to renege on the rates they are offering for next year’s coverage. At present, lawmakers do not need and should not attempt to make that outcome any more likely.
On Friday, Jeffrey Zients, the site’s new point man, said the HealthCare.gov system will work by December. He and everyone else had better hope that its bungled rollout hasn’t turned off too many people permanently. If Congress wants to help, it could make sure the necessary funds are appropriated to complete the Affordable Care Act’s implementation.