The problems with the federal Obamacare exchange website have driven even more Americans to back a one year delay of the individual mandate, a controversial provision of the law that requires virtually all Americans to purchase health insurance coverage.
The panic inside the Democratic Party over Obamacare is really beginning to set in as the Obama Administration continues to deal with the fallout of an embarrassing rollout of the glitchy federal health insurance exchange website, Healthcare.gov, and seemingly endless reports of Americans losing their health insurance coverage or being hit with more expensive plans.
Ron Fournier of the National Journal relayed the concerns and indignation of one Democratic Party consultant who put it very simply — they are “f****d”:
Incoming from Democrats:
“Dem Party is F****d.” That was the subject line of an email sent to me Sunday by a senior Democratic consultant with strong ties to the White House and Capitol Hill. The body of the email contained a link to this Los Angeles Times story about Obamacare “sticker shock:”
“These middle-class consumers are staring at hefty increases on their insurance bills as the overhaul remakes the healthcare market. Their rates are rising in large part to help offset the higher costs of covering sicker, poorer people who have been shut out of the system for years.”
“Although recent criticism of the healthcare law has focused on website glitches and early enrollment snags, experts say sharp price increases for individual policies have the greatest potential to erode public support for President Obama’s signature legislation.”
The federal health insurance website isn’t the only problem with Obamacare, even though its received the brunt of attention since its miserable, humiliating launch at the beginning of the month. The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune, President Barack Obama’s hometown paper, reflected on some of other problems with the law and called for a year delay in the individual mandate.
“Not long after she uttered that infamous phrase [“We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it…”], Pelosi got her way. She stampeded House Democrats to vote for a massive, complex Obamacare plan that few lawmakers in either party had time to understand. She and Democratic Senate leaders ramrodded Obamacare without a single Republican vote,” noted the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board on Friday.
“Democratic lawmakers voted for a bill without a clear idea of how well it would work,” they explained. “Now they know.”
The Tribune contended that Obamacare is “faltering under its own bureaucratic weight,” pointing to the trouble with the websites. These troubles, they note, has caused many Democrats to break with the administration and call for accountability, which could put HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ job in jeopardy.
President Barack Obama and his apologists are working to ensure Democratic support for Obamacare despite the growing concern on Capitol Hill on the problems with the federal exchange website. But some in the President’s party are breaking ranks, in one way or another, among them is Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).
During an appearance yesterday on ABC’s This Week, Manchin told host George Stephanopoulos that no American should be forced to buy a policy this more costly that what they had before Obamacare.
“Do you see any indication from anyone in the administration that they’re willing to go along with some sort of a delay?” Stephanopoulos asked Manchin.
Rep. John Barrow (D-GA) joined the chorus of Democrats urging relief for Americans who could be hit with ObamaCare’s individual mandate tax because of the ongoing problems with the federal health insurance exchange website.
“Since October 1st, millions of Americans have attempted to access healthcare.gov to try to learn about the health insurance coverage they’re required to buy. And every day, we’re learning more and more about the problems they’re facing,” said Barrow on Wednesday. “Folks are frustrated, and rightfully so.”
Barrow introduced legislation at the beginning of the year that would repeal a few of the most controversial provisions in the law, including the individual mandate and the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB, also referred to as “death panels”). He has also co-sponsored a measure introduced by Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) to repeal the employer mandate.
Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) that would have delayed the individual mandate — the unpopular, controversial provision of ObamaCare that requires Americans to purchase health insurance coverage or face a punitive tax — for one-year. Senate Democrats, however, wouldn’t budge on the issue and voted en masse to table the House-passed CR.
This wasn’t the first time that the House has assailed this controversial provision. In July, the House passed a measure to delay the individual mandate, which would have saved taxpayers $36 billion. The White House pledge to veto, and it wasn’t brought up for consideration in the Senate.
But more than three weeks after the disastrous launch of the federal ObamaCare health insurance exchange, Healthcare.gov, vulnerable Senate Democrats have now come out in favor of a proposal suggested by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), realizing, perhaps, that the law is indeed a “train wreck.”
Amid the fury over the embarrassing launch of the federal health insurance exchange, the Obama Administration has announced a delay in the enforcement of the individual mandate, the provision of ObamaCare that requires nearly all Americans to obtain health insurance or face a punitive tax.
The delay, announced late Wednesday, aligns enforcement of the individual mandate with the end of the open enrollment period for the exchanges, which ends on March 31, 2014. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney indicated on Monday that the temporary delay was in the works.
Prior to the delay, an uninsured individual would have had to purchase health insurance coverage by February 15 to avoid the individual mandate tax. The tax for 2014 is $95 or 1% of gross income, whichever amount is greater. But the delay now brings the mandate inline with the end of the exchanges.
“What the administration is doing today is probably best described as a tweak to the individual mandate: They are allowing anyone who purchases coverage during open enrollment (up through March 31) to not face a tax penalty for those three months they spent uncovered,” Sarah Kliff explained at the Washington Post. “This is only true for people who buy coverage through the marketplace.”
“How much this change had to do with HealthCare.gov’s technical problems isn’t totally clear. On the one hand, it certainly helps alleviate some of the time pressures on the administration if it can give shoppers six additional weeks to purchase coverage. On the other, it’s easy to see this change getting made in any situation,” she added.
Amid concerns that the significant problems with the federal ObamaCare exchange will prevent people from obtaining health insurance coverage before the open enrollment period ends, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) has asked President Barack Obama to extend the open enrollment period past the March 31, 2014 deadline and delay the individual mandate.
“Given the existing problems with the website, I urge you to consider extending open enrollment beyond the current end date of March 31, 2014,” wrote Sheehen the letter to President Obama, which was first obtained by Politico. “Allowing extra time for consumers is critically important so they have the opportunity to become familiar with the website, survey their options and enroll.”
Unlike the effective date of the employer mandate, the dates of the open enrollment period were not set by statute. “The [HHS] Secretary shall require an initial open enrollment, as determined by the Secretary (such determination to be made not later than July 1, 2012),” reads the Affordable Care Act as passed by Congress (Public Law 111-148, §124 Stat. 175).
So there is statutory authority, per se, to set the enrollment period. The law also gives the HHS secretary the ability to set dates for future enrollment years. But insurance companies have open enrollment periods for a reason — to prevent people from signing up for or changing their coverage when they get sick after the enrollment period has passed.
During the daily press briefing yesterday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney wouldn’t answer a simple question about the problems plaguing the federal exchange website in relation to the individual mandate.
Jon Karl of ABC News asked Carney if the White House would delay the individual mandate due to the problems with the federal exchange. Carney deflected initially, leading Karl to fire back, “Well, why not? Why not delay? You are going to charge people a fine for not enrolling.”
Carney went into a long-winded, deflective answer in which he said that people who are in a state that hasn’t expanded Medicaid won’t be hit the individual mandate tax and that the administration is focused on implementing the law.
“We’re three weeks into a six month enrollment period,” Carney told Karl. “Our focus is on making the Affordable Care Act work and making sure Americans have access to these plans, not on figuring out whose to blame for a problem that clearly exists and we need to fix.”
The individual mandate is a provision of ObamaCare that requires Americans to purchase health insurance coverage or face a punitive tax. The tax in 2014 will $95 or 1% of gross income, which ever is greater. It increases each year thereafter. This unpopular provision is considered to be the heart of the law at the Obama Administration hopes that young and healthy Americans will sign up for coverage to offset insurance costs on the sick and elderly.
In the weeks since the ObamaCare exchanges went lives, the number of uninsured Americans who say that will pay the individual mandate tax rather than purchase health insurance coverage has risen, according to the latest poll from Gallup.
Uninsured Americans are still overwhelmingly unfamiliar with the exchanges, though the number has slightly declined since Gallup polled the issue last month. According to the poll, 71% are either “not too familiar” or “not familiar at all” with the exchanges, down marginally from 72% in September.
More uninsured Americans (73%) say they are aware of the individual mandate, which requires them to purchase health insurance coverage, up from 68% last month. Just 26% say they are unaware of the individual mandate.
But even with the increased awareness of the requirement to purchase health insurance, the number of those who will purchase health insurance has actually declined, from 65% last month to 56% in October. More of the uninsured plan to pay the individual mandate tax (34%) than they did in September (25%).