The coercion of the individual mandate was supposed to balance the equation, but it’s far too weak to do so — and it’s getting weaker each time the administration proclaims another exemption.
Yes, the tax for opting out is scheduled to rise in coming years. In 2015 and 2016, the tax rate for those paying based on their household income will rise to 2.0 and 2.5 percent, respectively. But many middle-income families will still find that cheaper than buying ObamaCare insurance.
It’s also hard to see these taxes going up without even more backlash. ObamaCare is already an extremely unpopular program, before anyone has been taxed for not signing up. When Americans realize that they’ll owe even a modest tax for opting out, pressure will grow to exempt everyone from paying it.
ObamaCare’s authors wanted to use both a carrot and a stick to make the law work, but neither one looks effective. The subsidies for coverage are concentrated on the lowest-income households, not the middle class, and the mandate was watered down. So if ObamaCare is to succeed, it will have to do so based on its attractiveness to consumers.