By Todd Beamon
WASHINGTON D.C. – Another Obamacare delay has taken effect, although you may not have heard.
The administration has quietly announced that it was delaying through October 2016 the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate for millions of Americans who have lost their healthcare coverage.
The latest change was buried in an announcement that Americans would be able to keep health plans that do not meet Obamacare standards for another two years, Fox News reports.
Political consultant Dick Morris says the effect of this announcement with all the other Obamacare delays means that the act has now effectively been repealed.
“When you take the employer mandate that’s been postponed, the small-business mandate that’s been postponed, and the individual mandate that now has been given all kinds of escape clauses,” he said, “you’re essentially saying the boss doesn’t have to provide it and you don’t have to buy it. So, what’s left?” he said on Newsmax TV’s America’s Forum.
“You don’t have to buy insurance because there are all these escapes and your boss doesn’t have to buy insurance if he is a small, medium or large business,” he said. “This is to say any employer. And essentially now, all of it is postponed or overridden. So, it’s really a [de facto] repeal.”
Bradley Blakeman, former presidential assistant under George W. Bush, told Newsmax that Obama was attempting to “rig” November’s congressional elections with the move.
“He’s unilaterally amending a law in order to save Democrats in the fall,” said Blakeman. “You expect John Gotti to operate this way, not the president of the United States. It’s thuggery.
“He’s afraid, obviously he can’t go to Congress and get the law amended, and he has to save as many seats as he can, so he unilaterally amends the law. And he does so in a way that’s secretive. And he doesn’t make an announcement from the East room. He gets out his pen, and he does it in the dark of night.”
The seven-page technical bulletin, published with the announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services, contains a paragraph and footnote that refer to yet another rule in another bulletin that grants a “hardship exemption” to those whose policies were canceled, through October 2016.
News of the latest change was first reported Wednesday in an editorial in The Wall Street Journal. The bulletin that led to the editorial was published March 5.
In other words, the quietly announced change will not, until October 2016, penalize any Americans who lost their health insurance when the Obamacare individual mandate took effect last year but still have not gotten new coverage.
Since the last delay of the individual mandate in December, Americans have been told that they had to purchase insurance by March 31 to avoid being fined by the Internal Revenue Service.
Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee attacked the latest Obamacare delay, charging on Wednesday that the White House is working to “bury its failures when nobody is watching.”
“With less than three weeks remaining before the end of the healthcare law’s first open enrollment period, the Obama administration continues to quietly abandon many of the law’s core elements,” the legislators said in a blog post on the committee’s website.
“Throughout the law’s troubled implementation, the administration made unilateral change after unilateral change as it attempted to hide some of the law’s most harmful and controversial effects,” the post said. “Many of these announcements have come late on Friday afternoon or before holidays, often will little fanfare.”
But an HHS official told Fox that “we want consumers to have as many options as possible” and that the “transitional policy” will allow them to keep the coverage they have “if they would like to do so.”
Later the agency said, “This is a common-sense clarification of the law that we made clear last December. For the limited number of consumers whose plans have been cancelled and are seeking coverage, this is one more option.”
But this latest delay may not be so simple, Fox reports.
State insurance commissioners and insurance companies must decide whether to offer plans that have already been canceled — and many have objected to the latest extension.
Also, many Americans have since been forced to find new policies, often facing higher premiums and deductibles or reduced coverage.
“There’s no question we got off to a really bad start, and that was on us,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Wednesday, according to Fox. “And a lot of effort was put into making sure that the website and the problems with it were fixed.
“Once that happened, we’ve seen the American people’s interest in the product not waver at all, despite all of the obstacles to obtaining it that were put in front of them, and, you know, we’ve seen a consistent growth in enrollments.”
About 4.2 million people have signed up through the Obamacare exchanges, Carney said, a number that continues to lag behind projections.
Just last month, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius retreated on comments that she had made in 2013 that the administration had a 7 million enrollment target for Obamacare.