At 11th Hour, Obama Eases Health Care Mandate
People who lost policies can claim hardship exemption
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Dec 20, 2013 7:16 AM CST
Updated Dec 20, 2013 7:56 AM CST
The HealthCare.gov website's rocky launch has been a black eye for the Affordable Care Act.   (AP Photo/Jon Elswick, File)

(Newser) – In a surprise move, the Obama administration essentially lifted the individual mandate last night for anyone who saw their insurance policy cancelled thanks to the Affordable Care Act, just days before the Dec. 23 deadline to sign up for Jan. 1 coverage. These consumers will be able to apply for a hardship exemption if they think the plans on the government-run exchanges are too expensive, allowing them to buy bare-bones "catastrophic" coverage instead, or simply duck the requirement entirely, the Washington Post reports.

  • The change is a response to pressure from a dozen Democratic senators, most facing tough reelection campaigns, who said the administration hadn't done enough to help people bitten by the law. They issued a statement last night saying they were pleased, but would "closely monitor how the administration implements this option."
  • Marco Rubio, meanwhile, took the chance to gloat, saying the administration was "recognizing the grim reality that more Americans have lost health insurance than gained it," Politico reports.
  • The administration actually believes that there are fewer than 500,000 people who lost coverage and haven't signed up for new plans yet, though officials admit that's just their best guess.
  • Insurance companies are furious. "This latest rule change could cause significant instability," one industry group told the New York Times, while an anonymous official tells the Post that they're worried people with exemptions will wait until they get sick to sign up.
  • Many insurers were already having trouble getting people on board before the deadline, the Wall Street Journal reported today. "We've had some people telling us it's too close to the holidays," one official said.
  • The move came a day after insurers agreed—thanks to administration pressure—to push back the deadline for customers to pay their first premium to Jan. 10, the Huffington Post reports. They have, however, rebuffed the administration's request that they in January cover drugs that they don't cover, but that may have been covered under a consumer's previous plan.

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Showing 3 of 204 comments
iq145
Jan 1, 2014 10:11 PM CST
"What's good for millions are secured through what others see as an imposition: requiring virtually every American to get covered, either through an employer, a government program, or by buying a plan directly. For now, administration officials say they are just focused on getting through the March 31 end of open enrollment season. People who enroll by that date will not face the law's tax penalty for remaining uninsured.
SilenceDogood
Dec 27, 2013 5:14 AM CST
I guess I don't understand the process, I thought that laws were passed by Congress. How does Obama have the authority to change a laws mandated time frames?
Texas1
Dec 22, 2013 6:59 AM CST
The effort to get people to sign up for this disaster. Is so bad. Even the staff at Morning Joe are laughing at it. They are Democrats.