Obama Admin Slips in Major Obamacare Exemption Quietly Added for Individual Mandate – Seems to Apply to Everyone

The Obama administration quietly added another exemption to the individual mandate back in December – an exemption which some say would apply to nearly everyone.

Public attention was brought to the newest “hardship” exemption to the individual mandate this week due to a Wall Street Journal article that referenced a technical bulletin that was released by Health and Human Services on March 4:

That seven-page technical bulletin includes a paragraph and footnote that casually mention that a rule in a separate December 2013 bulletin would be extended for two more years, until 2016. Lo and behold, it turns out this second rule, which was supposed to last for only a year, allows Americans whose coverage was cancelled to opt out of the mandate altogether.

In 2013, HHS decided that ObamaCare’s wave of policy terminations qualified as a “hardship” that entitled people to a special type of coverage designed for people under age 30 or a mandate exemption. HHS originally defined and reserved hardship exemptions for the truly down and out such as battered women, the evicted and bankrupts.

The 13th and 14th exemptions are listed on the hardship exemption application and read as follows:

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13.) You received a notice saying that your current health insurance plan is being cancelled, and you consider the other plans available unaffordable.

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Documentation required as proof: Copy of notice of cancellation

14.) You experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance.

Documentation required: Please submit documentation if possible

Wait – what?

For the 14th exemption, what kind of “hardship” do they mean? That’s very vague wording. And “please submit documentation if possible“? What if it isn’t possible? What if you don’t have “documentation”, and Obamacare itself is simply a hardship for you? Does that mean you are exempt from the extortion tax penalty?

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the exemption could cover “essentially everyone” at a Capitol press conference today:

“Quietly, without any fanfare, there’s a real question whether the White House has just abandoned the individual mandate, the heart of Obamacare itself.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., accused the Obama administration of trying “to sneak through a unilateral change to Obamacare which essentially allows anyone who has experienced a hardship in obtaining health insurance to opt out of the individual mandate tax without requiring documentation.”

Economist Doug Holtz-Eakin, who leads the conservative-leaning American Action Forum, told Fox News:

“The door’s wide open. The mandate which they said was absolutely crucial to ObamaCare is falling apart day by day.”

At a House committee meeting today, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius defended the exemptions, claiming that they are really for people who can’t afford coverage one way or the other.

She also told Congress that the Obama administration will not extend the individual mandate, and that individuals who don’t obtain “minimum essential coverage” this year will have to pay an additional tax when they file their tax returns in 2015.

But what if those individuals claim a hardship under the 14th exemption?

The way the 14th exemption is worded, and the lack of a requirement to prove hardship, makes some question the guidelines. Does not being able to get through one of the many broken exchanges qualify as a hardship? What about plans being too expensive? If local hospitals aren’t covered under one of the available plans, is that considered a hardship?

Republicans have been trying to delay the individual mandate (and repeal Obamacare altogether), and have repeatedly been met with resistance and threats of veto from the White House.

Wasn’t the point of the individual mandate to force people to buy insurance? How will this impact insurance companies – if they don’t get enough enrollees, will premiums go up for everyone? As it is, enrollments are much lower than the Obama administration wanted.

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