The Campaign Spot

Individual Mandate Repealed! . . . for Those with Canceled Plans

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Individual Mandate Repealed! . . . for Those with Canceled Plans

On the one hand, this is good news. Common sense, even.

The Obama administration gave another break to people losing their health insurance coverage late Thursday, offering a special hardship exemption to patients who want the extremely cheap, bare-bones plans known as catastrophic coverage.

It’s the latest in a series of last-minute concessions being made by federal officials harried by complaining consumers as the days tick down to Jan. 1, 2014 and the last deadline for getting health insurance for the new year.

Senior administration officials who declined to be named estimate that about 500,000 people may be affected.

Or, you know, maybe 5 million.

Ezra Klein declares, “This is the first crack in the individual mandate. But is it the last?”

Avik Roy, describing the result of this move as “utter chaos”:

This most recent announcement from the Obama administration is the first time it has publicly admitted that Obamacare is making health insurance less affordable, not more so, for millions of Americans.

. . . The catastrophic plans aren’t that much cheaper than the regular Obamacare plans. In California, for example, the median cost of a pre-Obamacare plan on, for a 25-year-old male non-smoker, was $92. The Obamacare bronze plans cost an average of $205 a month. The Obamacare catastrophic plans? $184. In some parts of the country, the catastrophic plans are actually more expensive than the bronze plans.

For this reason, I don’t expect that many Americans to sign up for the catastrophic plans. If you think that the Obamacare bronze plans are unaffordable, you’re likely to feel the same way about the catastrophic plans. Instead, you’re going to take advantage of the “hardship exemption” and go without insurance altogether.

“Panic mode” is how insurance executives are describing the administration’s moves — but the insurers themselves are going to have to wonder about the financial viability of their exchange-based plans.

I prefer “panic mode” to the naive, optimistic assurances that this will all work out in the near future once the mere “glitches” are fixed.

Ramesh asks if those folks are exempted from the fine for not buying insurance . . . why shouldn’t, say, the currently uninsured be exempted?

David Remus asks, “Given that the individual mandate was upheld as a tax, are there other examples of a president waiving taxes for certain groups?”

Doc Zero:

Bruce Webster writes in, “I would not be surprised — in the wake of this announcement — to see shut down ‘temporarily’ at some point during the holiday season and then a more general suspension of the individual mandate.”

And now, the Obamacare roundup . . . 

The Los Angeles Times editorial board member Jon Healey: “The Times’ editorial board has steadfastly supported the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, warts and all, because it makes a credible effort to make a more sustainable healthcare system. But it’s disingenuous to pretend that the changes mandated by the law cost nothing or that the benefits it delivers magically arrive for free.”

Oklahoma: “One Mayes County woman says she’s spent nearly 60 hours trying to sign up for Obamacare.

 She claims she sits in front of computer time and time again, only for the system to crash near the end of the sign-up process.”

Nebraska: “The family had run smack into the realities of the new market place. ‘The tax credit won’t mean much when you have such a high deductible,’ Marilyn said. ‘When people find out about the nuts and bolts, they are going to be pissed.’ She summed up her experience in one word, ‘disappointing.’”

And right after I hit “send” on today’s edition, I encounter this story:

Nearly three months after its launch and as millions of Americans log on to shop for health plans, still has serious security vulnerabilities, according to documents and testimony obtained exclusively by ABC News.

There have been “two high findings” of risk – the most serious level of concern – in testing over the past few weeks, the top Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) cybersecurity official told the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday in a private transcribed interview.

Hey, could an unsecure website count as a “hardship” worthy of an exemption?


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