The latest announcement from the Obama Administration has confirmed what so many Americans already know: Obamacare is a hardship.
With millions of reported insurance cancellations, unbalanced by just 500,000 sign-ups for coverage on the Administration’s excuse for a website, the White House is or should be in full panic mode. And issuing more government rules to correct the consequences of their unworkable government rules is the only thing they seem to know how to do.
Thus, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary is now exercising her authority to grant a “hardship” exemption to the individual mandate to purchase health insurance. The Administration announced that those who have had their previous policies canceled will now qualify for a “temporary” hardship exemption (no exact time frame is given) from the individual mandate. Thus, as the law allows, those who get a “hardship exemption” are now able to purchase a catastrophic plan—typically only available to those under age 30. This is supposed to be beneficial because catastrophic plans have cheaper premiums, as Secretary Sebelius estimates, on average about 20 percent lower than other plans available on the exchange.
Under the Affordable Care Act, however, catastrophic plans have the highest deductibles allowed—$6,350 for self-only coverage—before the plan pays benefits. In addition, catastrophic plans are not eligible for subsidies in the exchanges.
The Administration’s latest action begs a crucial question: Is this a workable option for the people who had their coverage canceled? First, to qualify, of course, you must have had your policy canceled. You must also state that you found no other options “affordable.” Apparently, this means that no other plan was “affordable” despite the possibility of getting taxpayer subsidies for those other plans. Verification is going to be a challenge.
Meanwhile, the Administration itself reportedly expects few of the eligible consumers to take up the offer.
One thing is certain: The Administration’s latest initiative is not going to simplify anything. Rest assured it is going to create even greater confusion for health insurers trying to sell these products. Also, don’t expect the unhappy consumers who’ve just lost their previous coverage to understand clearly which plan they can pick and be legally qualified to pick it.
Following the numerous administrative delays, modifications, and even suspensions of statutory law, the Administration’s latest feckless attempt to fix what the Administration has broken fits a pattern. At heart, Obamacare is largely a vast grant of decision-making authority to the Secretary of HHS, who can make and unmake rules at her pleasure and even be “creative” with the law.
What’s next? Who knows? When the broad and vague statutory language of the health law is no sure guide, one’s only recourse is to read—carefully—the fine print of the regulations. But they are always subject to change. Whether you own a small business or run a medical practice, an insurance company, or a hospital, it is hard to plan or prepare. Now ordinary Americans also know this disheartening feeling.