Sometime after March 31 — probably not very far after — I would expect the administration to announce that after careful thought, it has decided not to enforce the individual mandate for 2014. As we’ve already seen, the individual mandate is very politically vulnerable. And I suspect we’re not done with the emergency fixes.
To see why, consider a fictional middle-class family. Call them the Petersons. Mom, Dad, two swell kids. Dad has his own landscaping business, and Mom works part time as a massage therapist. Together, they pulled in $90,000 in family income in 2013, and that’s about what they expect to get in 2014, so that’s what they put into the system when they go to buy health insurance. They’re pleasantly surprised to find that they can get a Silver plan for $688 a month. That’s a lot of money, to be sure, but it comes with a substantial subsidy and they’re happy to get it.
Over the year, Mom picks up another regular massage client, and Dad gets a few more landscaping jobs than he had last year, and at the end of the year, good news: Their family income is now $95,000! The recession is over for this family.
Or is it just beginning? When their family income passed $94,000, the Petersons moved from just under 400 percent of the federal poverty line to just over. Which means that they no longer qualify for subsidies on their health insurance, and the Internal Revenue Service would like that $8,500 back, please.