Cato’s Cannon explores Obamacare’s latest woes

Writing for Forbes, Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute examines President Obama’s “decision to exempt from the individual mandate those millions whose plans Obama himself cancelled.”

This categorical exemption is a bigger deal than it seems. With it, President Obama has admitted ObamaCare will strip many people of their health insurance and leave them with gaps in coverage, or no affordable coverage options at all. It is an implicit admission that ObamaCare has created economic peril for millions of Americans and political peril for Democrats.

Things weren’t exactly going well for ObamaCare anyway. There has been no shortage of votes to repeal the entire law, at least not in the House of Representatives. President Obama has signed into law bipartisan bills repealing one of ObamaCare’s three new entitlement programs; gutting its Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) program; cutting spending on the law’s Prevention and Public Health Fund; repealing its “1099″ reporting requirement (a new tax); twice increasing the amounts that recipients of Exchange subsidies must repay if they incorrectly projected their future income; repealing the law’s “free choice voucher” program; and rescinding some funding for the law’s Independent Payment Advisory Board. Obama had unlimited authority to throw money at states to encourage them to create Exchanges. Still, 34 states refused. He raided nearly half a billion dollars from Prevention and Public Health Fund in order to fund federal Exchanges in those states. Still, the federal Exchanges were a disaster. ObamaCare lost before the Supreme Court, which ruled the law must hold harmless states that refuse to implement ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion; 25 states have since refused. (To get those states to enact at least part of the expansion, President Obama is coercing them in direct contravention of the Court’s ruling.) Obama unilaterally delayed for one year the employer mandate; multiple anti-fraud provisions; a requirement that small businesses offer their workers a choice of plans through “SHOP” Exchanges; online enrollment through SHOP Exchanges; and limits on cost-sharing in employer plans. In his most egregious attempt to save the law by unilaterally rewriting it, Obama is trying to impose a $700 billion tax burden on the American people that Congress never authorized. Citing difficulties with the law’s web sites, Obama has repeatedly pushed back deadlines for acquiring coverage that will take effect on January 1, and for satisfying the individual mandate. He pushed back the start of the “open enrollment period” for coverage in 2015 until after the congressional elections in early November 2014. Obama even offered to let some people whose coverage had been cancelled restore those old health plans, despite the fact that they are actually illegal under federal law. Obama’s repeated assurances that “if you like your health plan, you can keep it,” that you can keep your doctor, and that premiums would fall, are widely recognized not just as untrue, but as lies. ObamaCare’s popularity rating hit a new low in December 2013, with Americans opposing it by nearly a 2-to-1 ratio. It has lost the support of women (60-35 percent opposed) and the uninsured (50-24 percent say it’s a bad idea) . Even when the president’s responses to ObamaCare’s inadequacies are not illegal, they tend to destabilize the law further or increase its cost.

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