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More Unraveling: Will the Individual Mandate Be Delayed Next?

Last week health insurance industry expert Bob Laszewski asked whether Obamacare was unraveling. His question was prompted by a report that the White House was considering a 1-3 year extension that would allow people to keep plans (in some states) despite Obamacare's narrow grandfathering rules.

Monday, Laszewski returned to the topic of unraveling after the White House announced final rules which pushed off the medium-sized business mandate for an additional year.

It is hard to figure out just where the Obama administration is going with all of this.

For employers with more than 50 workers this is a delay not a fix. Employers will only now up the pressure to change the law completely, knowing they have the administration on the political run over these issues...

What will the administration back off on next? Given the very small exchange enrollment so far coming from the ranks of the uninsured, will they next postpone or eliminate the individual mandate?

On that last issue, Investor's Business Daily has a story today confirming that the pace of enrollment in January is down in several states (as suggested here last month). Jed Graham of IBD writes "January data from New York, Colorado, Maryland and Kentucky (easily accessible via acasignups.net) all suggest that the momentum which carried from December into January substantially faded in the second half of the month." The IBD story closes by echoing Laszewski's final question about the individual mandate, "Some policy analysts expect the Obama administration to suspend the individual mandate in 2014 for everyone, once the March 31 deadline is passed."

This might have been unthinkable back in October when Republicans were demanding just such a delay but times have changed. Once you've had a first, second and third crack in the mandates, why not a fourth? As Laszewski suggests, the momentum is now with the folks who wanted these pushed back if not outright cancelled. At this point, it would be more surprising if the White House were not at least considering a broader delay as an option.


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