The individual mandate goes poof

The March 31 deadline to gain coverage in government exchanges will come and go with a whimper, not a bang. Enrollment numbers may rally a bit, but likely still will remain low. Any net gains in coverage will be due primarily to ObamaCare’s generous exchange subsidies for lower-income Americans, plus automatic enrollment of income-eligible Medicaid beneficiaries.

The ineffectiveness of the individual mandate is trumped only by its unpopularity. Two-thirds of Americans support getting rid of the individual mandate completely, according to a recent ABC News poll. This month, the House of Representatives voted again to delay enforcement of the individual mandate for a year, with support from 27 Democratic defectors.

The Obama administration already has been forced to delay, drop or revise a host of other requirements in the law, such as the employer mandate, minimum benefits standards, and nondiscrimination rules. Until now, the White House has refused to delay or repeal the unpopular individual mandate because it was supposed to hide the full “on-budget” costs of ObamaCare. Its architects hoped that the mandate could force millions of Americans to pay for the law’s expensive coverage and cross subsidies through higher premiums instead of higher taxes. But they always lacked sufficient political support to try to make the mandate powerful enough to accomplish this.