Obamacare

Obamacare's Mandate Won't Be Delayed, but It Won't Really Be Enforced Either

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Whitehouse.gov

Obamacare's individual mandate—the law's requirement to purchase health insurance—won't be delayed.

Following growing chatter that the administration might put a hold on the mandate, which remains one of the health law's least popular provisions, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in congressional testimony yesterday that the administration would under no circumstances delay the requirement. Nor would federal officials be extending this year's open enrollment period for buying coverage under the law, which is currently set to end on March 31. 

But here's the thing: The mandate is already essentially moot for just about anyone who wants it to be. That's because the law allows for a "hardship exemption"—an exemption that the administration has extended and expanded in the wake of the disastrous rollout of the exchanges.

Last December, the administration clarified the hardship exemption to include people whose plans had been canceled thanks to the health law, and were "having difficulty finding an acceptable replacement." To translate: You could get a waiver if new plans available under Obamacare were either too skimpy or too expensive. Exempted individuals would be allowed to buy into cheaper "catastrophic" plans that had been limited to individuals under 30, or to carry no coverage at all.

That weakened the mandate. An update to the exemption rendered it nearly useless. Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal's editorial page noted that the hardship exemption had quietly been extended through 2016, and that the verification required to obtain the exemption was less than strict:

But amid the post-rollout political backlash, last week the agency created a new category: Now all you need to do is fill out a form attesting that your plan was cancelled and that you "believe that the plan options available in the [ObamaCare] Marketplace in your area are more expensive than your cancelled health insurance policy" or "you consider other available policies unaffordable."

This lax standard—no formula or hard test beyond a person's belief—at least ostensibly requires proof such as an insurer termination notice. But people can also qualify for hardships for the unspecified nonreason that "you experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance," which only requires "documentation if possible." And yet another waiver is available to those who say they are merely unable to afford coverage, regardless of their prior insurance. In a word, these shifting legal benchmarks offer an exemption to everyone who conceivably wants one.

So, the White House isn't officially delaying the mandate. Instead, the administration is declining to enforce it on anyone who asks to be exempt.

In some sense, it's like used car pricing, or cable company discounts. Officially, the price is what's on the sticker. But if you make even a token effort to bargain, or half-heartedly threaten to cancel service, you can get the price lowered.

Mostly, it's a mechanism that allows the administration to have it both ways: Of course the mandate is absolutely essential to the law, and of course practically anyone who wants out of it can get an exemption on a hardship basis. But that approach also reveals the tough spot administration officials are in with regards to the mandate: They don't want to remove the requirement, but they don't really want to enforce it either. 

NEXT: What You Need To Know About Holder's Drug Sentencing Proposal and the State of America's Prison Population

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  1. Next step will be selective enforcement against anyone on Obama’s enemies list.

    1. Yup. Or retroactive enforcement. The statute of limitations for tax liability is pretty long.

      If you don’t pay the penaltax, there is nothing to stop a future IRS from enforcing it against you with interest. A

      1. How would they assess the amount owed?

        1. The way they do it here in MA, they have some metric to determine whether or not you had adequate coverage on a given calendar month. I don’t know what the metric is: it could be 5 days under a compliant plan or 15 days, etc

          They count how many months don’t meet the coverage requirement, and then that number is multiplied by a monthly penalty factor to asses your fine.

        2. The penaltax is either the set amount or a percentage of your income. They have your tax returns from this year. So they could figure out what you owed then add in the compounding interest (the would probably waive the fines but wouldn’t have to) and then send you the bill.

          1. Isn’t it already in the law that collections only occur against your refund?

            1. Not sure. But even if it is, they could just take your refund years down the road.

            2. Sure. So they demand the refund back a couple years after they paid it. That’s helpful how?

    2. “Now all you need to do is fill out a form attesting that your plan was cancelled…..”

      So if you’re not on the Enemies list and you get caught, they will allow you to retroactively sign this form.

      If we weren’t already, we’re officially in a Banana Republic.

  2. So it’s not rape – rape?

  3. Fuck the mandate. This is good news.

    Except here, of course.

    1. 8% agree. Not here of course!

      1. Shreek only took 8% of his meds this morning. Between the special election yesterday and the 8% dose, he is having a really epic bad morning.

        1. “Shreek only took 8% of his meds this morning. Between the special election yesterday and the 8% dose, he is having a really epic bad morning.”

          I hoped they explained to him analgesic doesn’t mean rectally inserted.

          1. Considering all he’s got is an ass for a head and shit for brains that makes taking them a bit hard doesn’t it?

    2. Right, living under the whims of overlords rather than the rule of law is just groovy.

    3. Fuck the mandate. This is good news.

      Not revoking or delaying the mandate is good news? Leaving the door open to retro or arbitrary enforcement is the way to go?

      Sure, if you say so.

      1. The “genius” of the working individual mandate is what made the rest of the ACA workable, too.

        If ObamaCare were only a feckless individual mandate, that would be wonderful! But it’s not.

        It’s totally not. What about all the other problems that the individual mandate was supposed to address?

        Those problems haven’t even kicked in yet. But they will. They totally will.

      2. ACA: The Arbitrary and Capriciousness Act.

          1. Or the Potemkin Politics Arbitrariness and Capriciousness Act.

  4. They are becoming more and more like the commies

    The Soviet worker “We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.”

    The American citizen “We pretend to obey the law, and they pretend to enforce it.”

    1. Well said, unfortunately.

    2. The American citizen “We pretend to obey the law, and they pretend to enforce it.”

      I think I’m a step ahead of the curve here. I quit pretending to obey.

  5. I looked at the hardship exemption form. one of the hardships is:
    You received a shut-off notice from a utility company.

    seems like a pretty big loophole.

    1. Worth paying a late fee to manufacture the exemption.

    2. I wasn’t aware that that the law created a hardship exemption. Did it?

        1. Captain Obvious says, “If they’re going to make the individual mandate so easy to avoid, then why not just get rid of it”.

          The only reason we’re going through all of this is becasue a few election cycles back, it behooved Obama to pass something–anything–and call it “healthcare reform”.

          1. Pure potemkin politics.

            1. The other possibility is that they really are gunning for the middle class.

              And middle class voters should really lock onto that.

              I think they sold ObamaCare to the middle class as a means to force “irresponsible” poor people to buy insurance–so they’ll stop using the ER when they get sick and hurting the providers by going all deadbeat when the bill comes due.

              That isn’t going to happen, yet. Obama, apparently, isn’t smart enough to see what the likely results of his policies will be–until it’s time to implement them. Then he suddenly grows a conscience–and would rather leave the system in shambles.

              Total, complete, incompetence. He has no idea what he’s doing. Obama couldn’t run a fast food franchise.

              1. Of course the easy solution to this is to remove the “law” that hospitals must treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay. But this would be considered cruel in this socialist workers paradise.

        2. That’s nice, EDG. You’ll pardon me if I don’t take what’s on the OCare website as gospel for what’s in the law.

        3. One of the exemptions:
          “You recently experienced the death of a close family member.”
          Wow, I’m an evil one-percenter, yet I could qualify under this (if father-in-law is close enough).

          1. Geez, I didn’t even get to these two dumptruck sized loopholes:

            Your individual insurance plan was cancelled and you believe other Marketplace plans are unaffordable.

            You experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance.

          2. Other exemptions:

            – Having a vagina

            – Looking like you could be Obama’s son

    3. No doubt. The local city utilities will send a shut-off notice if payment is 10 days late. Hell, I got one last month. I’m exempt!

    4. from the Application for Exemption from the Shared Responsibility Payment for Individuals who Experience Hardships:

      7. Do you need this exemption?
      YES.
      NO.
      If no, leave the rest of this page blank.

      no Virginia, the retarded don’t rule the night. they create forms at fed.gov.

    5. In my state, you have stop paying for a pretty long time before they can shut off (I think it’s 6 months or so). And they can’t do it during the winter under any circumstances.

  6. It’s hard to think of a better indictment of ObamaCare than the Obama Administration’s own reluctance to enforce it for fear of what would happen.

  7. ACA (minus) mandates/subsidies = eHealthinsurance.com + broken health insurance cartel.

    1. This is so dumb.

      How are you planning to cover all the costs of people with preexisting conditions?

      How are you planning to cover the expansion of Medicaid?

      1. How are you planning to cover all the costs of people with preexisting conditions?

        Apparently, no one is signing up. That is what I keep hearing anyway.

        1. No one’s signing up on the exchanges?

          The people who aren’t signing up on the exchanges are the young and uninsured. Getting them to buy insurance they don’t need and wouldn’t buy otherwise was supposed to make up for all the people with preexisting conditions, et. al., remember?

          You think people who have been maintaining their preexisting conditions out of pocket aren’t getting insurance now that the insurance companies can’t refuse to insure them?

          Are you out of your mind?

      2. I have heard that, contrary to popular belief about Democratcare doing away with policy denials based on pre-existing conditions, only so-called “guaranteed” plans do that.

        I have been unable so far to find this in the actual law.

    2. You forgot the economic multiplier!

    3. HAHAHA. Central planning – central planning elements = market. Derptastic.

  8. Now all you need to do is [attest] that you “believe that the plan options available in the [ObamaCare] Marketplace in your area are more expensive than your cancelled health insurance policy” or “you consider other available policies unaffordable.”

    You know, this *could* help popularize jury nullification.

  9. OK, I know I’m late to the party, but could someone please tell me exactly how 90% of america isn’t fed up with these legal limbos by now? How can I possibly plan for the future if I don’t know what the goddamn law’s going to be on any given day?

    1. Watch between two ferns with Obama and chill!

    2. Who’s planning, anon? Most folks make it up as they go along. Hell, they’re lucky if they don’t live paycheck to paycheck. They’ll notice when it hits their bottom line and not before.

      1. Failure to plan = planning to fail.

        1. You can’t hold people responsible for the choices they make (or don’t make) regarding the future! Everyone knows that the future is vast and incomprehensible; that’s why we have the government. They tell us what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. That way no one has to live with the consequences of their actions. C’mon, this is Nanny State 101 stuff.

    3. How can I possibly plan for the future if I don’t know what the goddamn law’s going to be on any given day?

      Technically, that’s been true forever.

      But it’s a perfect refutation of the idiots who become police or military – they swear to uphold whatever bullshit crazy law gets enacted AFTER they sign up, or follow orders from abject morons like Barack Obama/George Bush/Rahm Emmanuel.

  10. Also, it’s almost like all these things critics of Obamacare warned about 5 or 6 years ago have become realities; yet somehow everyone in government is caught off guard. The willful ignorance is amazing.

    1. Imagine if we ever bothered to compare people’s predictions with the actual outcomes, and judged them accordingly?

  11. In some sense, it’s like used car pricing, or cable company discounts. Officially, the price is what’s on the sticker. But if you make even a token effort to bargain, or half-heartedly threaten to cancel service, you can get the price lowered.

    I was really surprised when my introductory rate with RCN ran out (jumping our cable/internet bill by about $45 a month) because they called my bluff to cancel. I actually hadn’t been planning to, but ended up only waiting about a week and getting a deal with Comcast that had me on an introductory rate for another year. I’m still kind of shocked one of them hasn’t just accepted it and given me something like $10 above the intro rate and kept me from switching again (I think I’m on my 4th switch now).

    1. Yeah, TWC called my bluff the last time I threatened to cancel too. It wasn’t until I was literally on the phone cancelling my service that they gave me what I deemed a reasonable rate.

      1. Even after I was canceling they didn’t try to cut a deal.

    2. It’s easy for cable companies to call your bluff because they know your options are very limited. You at least had a second cable provider, we have only Comcast, RCN doesn’t serve the area.

      1. If my area only had 1 provider it would make sense, but in my case they know I can switch. And if they have decent records, they should realize that I have switched.

      2. dish/directv are competitors. Not sure what their broadband is like, if they offer any.

  12. yet another waiver is available to those who say they are merely unable to afford coverage, regardless of their prior insurance.

    Unless this changed, there are some hard number rules on this one. In order to qualify the lowest priced Bronze tier plan must be more than 9.5% of your AGI. If that has changed, I would love a citation of said change.

  13. Deliberately arbitrary law. Super. Is it any wonder that the economy cannot get off the ground?

  14. So, there will be no delay in the application of the mandate, but there will be exemptions to the application of the mandate.
    This is why I say that the Admin. is in the Tyson Zone.

  15. So now the administration’s explicit policy is “speciousness” which is making me even more uncomfortable.

    I believe the best nickname for Barack is now “Wrong-Way 0bama.” Looks like campaigning on a cult of personality was his one-and-only skill.

  16. I just go a letter from my insurance company stating I can keep my non-ACA individual plan for another year. Last year they told me it was a grandfathered plan so I’ve been able to avoid the exchanges so far. With my plan extended past the midterm elections, I’m pretty hopeful I’ll be able to keep my plan for a while. Of course the premium still keeps going up every year as my plan is still affected by ACA.

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