Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) will introduce legislation to delay the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate by six months, arguing that Americans should not be penalized for failing to buy coverage they cannot easily access through HealthCare.gov.
“How are you going to go after people next year using the IRS to punish them if the thing you’re forcing them to buy isn’t available for them to buy because the website is not working,” Rubio asked during an appearance on Fox & Friends on Tuesday. “The law I’m going to introduce basically delays that requirement until the GAO [Government Accountability Office] certifies it has been up and running for six months consecutive.”
Under Obamacare, individuals who aren’t enrolled in creditable coverage by early next year will be assessed $95 per adult or 1.0 percent of family income, whichever is greater. The penalty increases in subsequent years. The individual requirement is considered essential for encouraging young and healthy individuals who wouldn’t necessary purchase coverage to sign up and attain balance in the health care risk pool.
And while administration officials have not ruled out tinkering with the policy, they insist that the uninsured can obtain coverage through alternative pathways while tech experts address the glitches associated with HealthCare.gov. While the website is being reconstructed, people can sign-up through a government call-in center, local navigators and community centers, they say.
“Given where we are in our analysis of this moment, we are not at that point where we’re thinking about how we don’t do this. We think we’re on the pathway to make this work,” a senior administration official told reporters on Monday afternoon. “If we get there, that would be a possibility. Right now, we believe the pathway forward allows us to work under the laws as established. ”
The Department of Health and Human Services has hinted that it might reassess how the mandate is implemented to ensure that individuals who enroll in coverage during the last day of enrollment, March 31, are not penalized. “There is a disconnect between the open enrollment and individual responsibility time frames in the first year of the Marketplace only,” the agency said in a statement. “The Administration is working to align those policies and will issue guidance soon. We are exploring options currently and will issue guidance at a later date.”