Obama Administration To Alter Individual Mandate Penalty Cutoff
On Wednesday, the Obama administration said it would adjust the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate to give U.S. residents an extra six weeks to obtain coverage before being penalized, the Washington Post reports (Somashekhar et al., Washington Post, 10/23).
The six-month open enrollment period for individuals to purchase coverage on the federal and state exchanges began on Oct. 1 and is scheduled to end on March 31. Under the ACA, individuals who go at least three months without insurance coverage will face a penalty for being uninsured. Previously, the administration had said individuals would need to enroll in a qualified health plan by Feb. 15 -- for coverage to take effect by March 31 -- to avoid those penalties (Kliff, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 10/23).
An administration official on Wednesday said the White House "is working to align those policies" to protect individuals who enroll in coverage between Feb. 15 and March 31 from paying a fine and "will issue guidance soon" (Pear, "In Practice," New York Times, 10/23).
WH Officials: Decision Not Motivated by Glitches, Not a Delay
White House officials clarified that the decision was not motivated by technology issues that have plagued the federally run exchanges (Washington Post, 10/23).
Further, the officials also said the adjustment would not be considered a delay of the individual mandate because the deadline for purchasing coverage by March 31 would remain in place. In a tweet, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest reiterated that individuals still would be required to have coverage in the 2014 tax year, saying the "[i]ndividual mandate timing hasn't changed" (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/23).
The poor roll out of the exchange has prompted several lawmakers, including some Democrats, to call on the administration to extend the open enrollment period, delay tax penalties or grant an exemption to those who have tried unsuccessfully to enroll in coverage through Healthcare.gov ("In Practice," New York Times, 10/23).
According to "Healthwatch," Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is preparing to introduce a bill that would delay the individual mandate for one year, while Sens. Mark Begich (D-Ala.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in recent weeks have suggested extending the open enrollment period ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.