December 20 2013

Free at Last: New ObamaCare Exemptions

Patrice J. Lee

Millions of Americans who lost their healthcare thanks to ObamaCare will get a reprieve. In a last-minute rule, the Obama Administration significantly relaxed ObamaCare rules saying these uninsured Americans can now purchase bare-bones plans intended for young people or avoid the healthcare mandate entirely.

To so many Americans who were left out in the cold after their plans were cancelled or who face losing their plans, this exemption is a welcome Christmas gift. But it can certainly be argued that the president is exceeding his constitutional authority to fix a problem of his own making.

Politico reports:

Millions of Americans who had their health plans cancelled will be exempt from the Obamacare individual mandate, the administration said Thursday – a surprise move that comes just before Monday’s deadline to sign up for coverage starting Jan. 1.

The administration also said people who had their plans cancelled could get a scaled back catastrophic plan, which has more limited benefits than those included in other Obamacare health plans.

The move prompted sharp criticism from Republicans and concern from the insurance industry that another last-minute change would disrupt coverage and lead to tumult in the new marketplaces.

“This latest rule change could cause significant instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers,” said Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group.

President Obama is eating a whopping slice of humble pie as he and his Administration face the realities of implementing his sweeping healthcare “reform” legislation. Providing healthcare to uninsured Americans was not accomplished by a simple stroke of his pen and it is fraught with substantial unintended consequences including millions more losing their coverage from individual entrepreneurs, families, and students at community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

He noted: "My working assumption was that the majority of those folks would find better policies at lower costs or the same costs in the marketplaces, and that the universe of folks who potentially would not find a better deal in the marketplaces, the grandfather clause would work sufficiently for them. And it didn’t. And again, that’s on us….And that’s why I’m trying to fix it."

Don’t expect the Administration to parade this measure around. It underscores that the legislation was flawed from the start and demonstrates that the Administration holds many cards to exempt Americans but will only selectively play them. The president is carrying forward a system of rewarding some to the detriment of others.

The Washington Post explains:

The rule change was issued in a bulletin from the Department of Health and Human Services. It is the second major response by the Obama administration to a public and political furor that erupted in the fall when several million people who bought their own insurance began to receive notices that their policies were being canceled because they fell short of new benefit standards. The cancellations prompted complaints that President Obama had reneged on an oft-repeated promise that, under the Affordable Care Act, people who like their health plans could keep them.

At a news conference in mid-November, an apologetic Obama relented to the criticism, announcing that the federal government would let insurance companies continue for another year to offer individuals and small businesses health plans that do not meet the new requirements. The decision, however, is up to each state’s insurance regulator, and not all have gone along.

This second change, prompted by a group of Democratic senators — most of whom face tough reelection campaigns next year — goes substantially further in accommodating people upset about losing their policies. The latest rule will allow consumers with a canceled health plan to claim a “hardship exemption” if they think the plans sold through new federal and state marketplaces are too expensive.

From a freedom perspective this is a win – a smaller win than is needed, however. At least half a million Americans have been freed in the immediate future from the chains of this healthcare law by this new exemption. That is not enough. What needs to be entirely eliminated is the personal mandate, adding it to the employer mandate, along with fees and higher taxes.

Americans agree. According to recent polls, 54 percent wish the law had never been passed and 53 percent would vote to repeal the law if given the chance.

In the short term we can expect some serious confusion about who is exempted, volatility in the insurance markets, and more ire from those (of us) who are still enslaved to the healthcare mandate. This failure of government intervention in the marketplace is a painful and tough lesson to learn but one I hope Americans are studying well.

 

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