individual mandate

Senate Dem wants ObamaCare enrollment period extended, individual mandate tweaked

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.

White House hints at individual mandate delay

Jay Carney

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.

Number of uninsured Americans refusing to purchase insurance rises

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%).

More Americans fall victim to ObamaCare sticker shock

Many Americans have found out exactly what ObamaCare means for them, and they’re not happy. Sure, some will be able to obtain cheaper coverage, thanks to subsidies that hide the true cost of coverage. But too many people are getting stuck with sticker shock.

“My wife and I just got our updates from Kaiser telling us what our 2014 rates will be. Her monthly has been $168 this year, mine $150. We have a high deductible,” wrote Tirge Caps on his diary at Daily Kos, a leftist blog. “We are generally healthy people who don’t go to the doctor often. I barely ever go. The insurance is in case of a major catastrophe.”

“Well, now, because of Obamacare, my wife’s rate is [going] to $302 per month and mine is jumping to $284,” he continued. “I am canceling insurance for us and I am not paying any f**king penalty. What the hell kind of reform is this?”

“Oh, ok, if we qualify, we can get some government assistance. Great. So now I have to jump through another hoop to just chisel some of this off. And we don’t qualify, anyway, so what’s the point?” he asked. “I never felt too good about how this was passed and what it entailed, but I figured if it saved Americans money, I could go along with it.

“I don’t know what to think now. This appears, in my experience, to not be a reform for the people,” he added.

This reflects the feelings of many people, including some who were previously ObamaCare supporters. The San Jose Mercury News recently told the stories of two Californians, both of whom voted for President Obama, who are seeing premium increases because of ObamaCare.

Administration official struggles to defend ObamaCare on “The Daily Show”

Kathleen Sebelius on

Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, isn’t exactly known for carrying water for Republicans. But you wouldn’t have known that on Monday night when he sat down with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss ObamaCare.

During the nearly 11-minute interview, Stewart grilled Sebelius about the break big businesses have received and asked why individuals, especially those who may not want to participate in the law, aren’t getting the same treatment.

Stewart began the segment with a dig at the glitches that the health insurance websites have experienced since they were rolled out last week. “We’re gonna do a challenge,” he told Sebelius as he pulled out a laptop. “I’m gonna try and download every movie ever made and you’re gonna try sign-up for ObamaCare, and we’re gonna see which happens first.”

Sebelius began touting the exchanges, claiming that people will have a chance to compare insurance plans “[f]or the first time,” ignoring the fact that there have long-been websites, such as eSurance, that have allowed consumers to shop and compare and contrast between plans that fit their needs.

Government shutdown puts Republicans in a corner on debt ceiling

Whether they like it or not, congressional Republicans may have squandered their chance to deal on the debt ceiling because of the current government shutdown.

House Republicans are absolutely right when they say that President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have been unwilling to negotiate on a Continuing Resolution that would keep the government open. But they made a tactical political mistake by trying to defund and delay ObamaCare through a measure that would keep the federal government running.

Poll after poll shows that Americans disapprove of ObamaCare, the 2010 healthcare law, and they want it repealed. They’re seeing the effects of the law through higher insurance premiums and its effects on workers as many employers drop or change benefits, cut hours to avoid mandates and/or have scaled back plans to hire. Republicans have won the messaging battle on ObamaCare.

But early polls show Americans placing more blame on Republicans for the government shutdown than President Obama and Democrats. This isn’t entirely self-inflicted; after all, the media isn’t exactly doing them any favors by framing the narrative in a manner that helps the White House.

House, Senate unable to agree on stop-gap spending measure, government shutdown begins

government shutdown

The federal government has shutdown for the first time in almost two decades as the House of Representatives and the Senate were unable to reach an agreement on a stop-gap spending measure to fund the government until mid-December.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. The Senate came into session around 2pm on Monday and rejected the Continuing Resolution (CR) passed by the House on Saturday night/Sunday morning. Senate Democrats opposed the measure because it would have delayed ObamaCare for a year.

Various Democratic senators explained from the floor that they had no intention of making changes to ObamaCare, insisting that their compromise was the spending levels by which the government would run. House Democrats said the same in their speeches in from the floor of the lower chamber.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) floated a one-week spending measure to give the chambers more time to workout their differences. But that idea was rejected by his counterpart, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Senate Democrat backs delay of ObamaCare’s individual mandate

Breaking with President Barack Obama and Democratic leadership, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said on Thursday that he would vote for a stop-gap spending measure that delayed ObamaCare’s individual mandate for one-year, citing the administration’s delay of the employer mandate:

“There’s no way I could not vote for it,” Manchin said at a Bloomberg Government breakfast today. “It’s very reasonable and sensible.”
Manchin, 66, said he’d be willing to delay the individual mandate as part of the budget negotiations because the Obama administration in July gave businesses an extra year to provide their workers with health insurance.

“Don’t put the mandate on the American public right now,” Manchin said. “Give them at least a year. If you know you couldn’t bring the corporate sector, you gave them a year, don’t you think it’d be fair?”

Chris Moody of Yahoo! News reports that Manchin will vote for the CR, including funding for ObamaCare, that Senate Democrats are expected to push through the chamber either today or tomorrow.

House Republicans are reportedly considering tacking on a one-year delay of the individual mandate to Continuing Resolution (CR) after the Senate returns the measure to the chamber. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) confirmed on Thursday that it’s “unlikely” that he will accept a “clean” CR.

Report: IRS didn’t track $67 million in ObamaCare slush fund spending

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) failed to track millions of dollars in spending from an ObamaCare slush fund account, according to a report released on Wednesday by the agency’s watchdog, which will likely lead to fresh criticism for the agency as Congress further investigates its targeting of conservative groups and excessive spending.

The IRS has been given broad new powers to enforce various provisions of ObamaCare, including the unpopular individual mandate and the recently-delayed employer mandate. The Health Insurance Reform Implementation Fund (HIRIF), authorized by the so-called “Affordable Care Act” (ACA), provided the tax agency with $1 billion to implement and enforce the provisions.

The report released by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found that the IRS didn’t track $67 million in expenditures from the HIRIF account, as required by federal law. The report notes that the IRS spent $488 million from the slush fund between FY 2010 and FY 2012.

“[TITGA] found that the IRS did not track all costs associated with implementation of the ACA including costs not charged to the HIRIF,” noted the agency watchdog in its report summary. “Specifically, the IRS did not account for or attempt to quantify approximately $67 million of indirect ACA costs incurred for Fiscal Years 2010 through 2012.”

House Republicans may include individual mandate delay in stop-gap spending measure

The wheels are moving in the House of Representatives as they prepare for the Senate to send back the stop-gap spending measure to keep the government open. But House Republicans have indicated that they may include a one-year delay of the ObamaCare’s individual mandate, which would volley the Continuing Resolution (CR) back to the upper chamber with time on the clock running out:

The House Republican leadership is seriously considering attaching a one-year delay of Obamacare’s individual mandate to the Senate bill to avert a government shutdown, according to senior GOP aides.

If House Republicans decide to go this route, it would all but provoke a government shutdown, since Senate Democrats might not even schedule a vote on a bill that includes that provision, Senate leadership staffers say. Even if the Senate schedules a vote, there might not be time to move the legislation through the slow-moving chamber.
Several different tactics are under discussion within the top levels of House GOP leadership, and the path Republicans choose depends on several factors — chiefly the mood of rank-and-file Republicans when they return to Washington, and when the House gets the continuing resolution back from the Senate.

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