Some conservatives have suggested that the fact that many of the uninsured spurning the exchanges are doing so because premiums are unaffordable means they can get a #14 exemption. Current policy suggests they won’t, since the law has already set a standard for “affordability” (as long as premiums are under 8 percent of income).
This is not to say the mandate will survive: Yuval suggested back in December, when the one-year exemption for those with canceled policies was announced, that the logic of it easily lead to even broader exemptions. He pointed out, quite rightly, that “they are now declaring the direct consequences of Obamacare itself [cancelations of non-comprehensive plans] to be a hardship.” That leaves a wide door for future exemptions (the law lays out a couple and then lets “the secretary” define further “hardship” exemptions, which is what populate the form), but HHS hasn’t opened it yet. Certainly, given the political quandaries created by the fixes so far, HHS may have to do so.
But the genesis of the idea that the mandate is already scrapped is similar to the myth that the IRS lacks much power to enforce it. Sure, it can’t put a tax lien on your house or take you to court over it, so you can refuse to pay it on your taxes. But any year you get a refund, the IRS can charge you the mandate penalty then by reducing your refund, retroactive a few years.