Nearly a week after the White House made the decision, "Obamacare" opponents are discovering that the administration apparently has walked away from the individual mandate that these opponents have been working so hard to delay.
Contained as an 'option' on a new Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," application for exemption form, the administration now lists "hardship in obtaining health insurance," with no limits defining what a hardship would be, as a valid reason for being exempt.
Last October, Republicans tried to delay the ACA's individual mandate for a year and shut down the government for two weeks in the process. President Barack Obama claimed at the time that the mandate was essential to implementation of his signature healthcare law. Last week, though, Obama quietly made changes to the individual mandate that allows anyone to avoid the requirement.
At a Thursday press conference, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) wondered why Obama is opposing his party's efforts to delay the individual mandate when the new hardship exemption does essentially the same thing.
"Quietly, without any fanfare, there's a real question whether the White House has just abandoned the individual mandate, the heart of Obamacare itself," he said. "The president's always claimed that getting rid of the individual mandate is tantamount to gutting Obamacare, yet the White House quietly added a new hardship exemption, for essentially everyone, and it seems that they're hoping that no one will notice. This is a huge public policy decision that could affect millions of Americans.
"Tomorrow, the House is going to vote to delay the individual mandate tax and give everyone the same extension that the White House has already given them, yet the White House opposes the bill. Frankly, I think the American people deserve some explanation as to what the White House really is doing."
While the individual mandate to carry health insurance is technically in effect, anyone who claims they had a "hardship in obtaining insurance" can receive an exemption. They do not have to provide any documentation supporting the claim to receive the exemption.
The primary goal of the ACA was to increase health insurance coverage. The law, as originally written, did that in four ways: expand Medicaid, provide health insurance exchanges, an employer mandate, and an individual mandate.
Obama has already twice delayed the employer mandate and now has essentially abandoned the individual mandate, say experts. While much of the ACA drives up the costs of healthcare by providing subsidized or free health insurance, the employer and individual mandates were added, in part, to lower health insurance costs by getting more people into the insurance pool. Without those mandates, therefore, health insurance costs could increase.