“The continuous coverage penalty is a backdoor individual mandate,” said conservative health policy analyst Dean Clancy, formerly with FreedomWorks. “It’s not something conservatives should support.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has been among the most vocal critics of the House plan, called the provision just as coercive as Obamacare’s mandate.

“You will no longer have to pay a penalty to the government,” Paul said. “But you will have to pay a penalty to your insurance company.”

Democrats never liked the individual mandate but saw it as a necessary mechanism to expand coverage and prevent insurers from discriminating against medical conditions. Democrats predicted the GOP’s insurance surcharge would be too weak to encourage enrollment and would make it only harder to persuade healthy people to buy coverage.