No More Individual Mandate?

affordable care actObamaCare exemptions are becoming a dime-a-dozen anymore, but the public needs to pay special attention to the latest one that is being called a mega-exemption and potential death knell because it is essentially delaying the lynchpin of the whole program – the individual mandate.

Fox News is reporting that the new exemption was included in an ObamaCare application document dating back to late December. It stipulates that individuals can now qualify for a “hardship exemption” — meaning they would not have to pay a penalty for not buying insurance — if they “experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance.”

According to the fine print, there is no definition of “another hardship” and the administration doesn’t seem too interested in requiring proof. It only says that anyone seeking the exemption should “submit documentation if possible.”

Economist Doug Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office under the George W. Bush administration, told Fox “[The] mandate which they said was absolutely crucial to ObamaCare is falling apart day by day.”

He explained that the exemption is written so broadly that virtually anyone can use it simply because they couldn’t get through on the website or couldn’t afford the plan they want.

House Speaker John Boehner called the latest exemption a “huge public policy decision that could affect millions of Americans,” because it applies to “essentially everyone.” He also questioned whether the White House had just abandoned the individual mandate and were just “hoping no one will notice.”

Until now, the White House has balked at any suggestion that they delay the individual mandate in its entirety, but they have been doing it piecemeal for some time now. Thirteen exemptions are already on the books with the latest – and broadest – being the fourteenth. This raises the question of whether or not the individual mandate has been pushed off in all but name.

This might mean people won’t be facing fines when they file their income tax at this time next year, but there will be other serious consequences of this latest move.

“There could be chaos in the insurance market,” Fox explains. “Insurance companies, in exchange for taking on older and sicker patients as part of the Affordable Care Act, were counting on millions of young and healthy Americans signing on. The individual mandate — and the penalty that comes with it — was supposed to compel people who might not otherwise buy insurance to enter the system.”

However, now that the mandate is being softened, “it’s unclear whether insurance companies will have enough of those new customers to keep premiums down for everyone else.”

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