If the Exchanges Aren’t Ready, Push Back the Mandate Deadline

A simple proposal . . . 

Under Obamacare, every individual is required by law to have health insurance by January 1, 2014, or face a penalty that’s set to increase every year through 2016. To help people get health insurance, the government set up the insurance exchange web sites, and technically opened them for business October 1.

Of course, as we all know, the sites aren’t working anywhere near as well as hoped. As Politico summarizes:

The Obamacare enrollment website remains badly broken despite two weeks of intensive round-the-clock efforts at repairs.

HHS isn’t making any predictions about how long it will take to fix it — or rebuild it. But advocates, lobbyists and industry officials are talking about it as a months-long repair effort.

It makes no sense to have a six-month window to sign up on the exchanges but not have the site working for several months of that time period.

So, why not push back the deadline for getting insurance to six months after the exchange web sites are declared “fully functional”? Take the time to get the sites to work right, and then start the six-month countdown.

This would require Americans to have health insurance by May 1, 2014, or June 1, or sometime around there.

Why would President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius object to that?


Apparently “as soon as possible” means November or December.

UPDATE: Spurred by a commenter, the real deadline is apparently February 15:

There are really just two important dates to keep in mind. The first is Dec. 15. That’s the date by which you need to be signed up if you want your coverage to begin Jan. 1, 2014 — the earliest any of these plans will take effect.

The other date is Feb. 15, 2014. That’s the last day you can get coverage and avoid being liable for a penalty for not having insurance. The maximum penalty if you don’t have coverage for the entire year is $95 or one percent of your taxable income, whichever is bigger. It will go up in future years.

The open enrollment period actually will run until the end of Mar. 2014, but if you wait until the very end you might still have to pay a month’s worth of the penalty for not having coverage. That penalty would be assessed when you pay your 2014 taxes in Apr. 2015.

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