On Wednesday’s “Special Report” on the Fox News Channel, Washington Post columnists Charles Krauthammer and George Will and Daily Beast columnist Kirsten Powers reacted to a report that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had worked in a loophole for those wanting to get past the ObamaCare mandate.
Partial Transcript as Follows:
BAIER: Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services Secretary up on Capitol Hill today, this on a day when it became known that the Obama administration essentially is giving millions of people a way to get around the individual mandate. They fill out a form and they get an exemption from the individual mandate if their plan was canceled. It’s a hardship exemption.
We are back with the panel. Charles, first, kind of ferreted out by the “Wall Street Journal” editorial board. It was in there, the hardship exemption. The Obama administration kind of laid it out and it applies to people who lost their plans, like Kirsten Powers, maybe.
KRAUTHAMMER: Sebelius is implying is it was in the plan all the time, in the bill. Yes, it was. But it was very narrowly defined. It meant if you lost your house, you lost your job. If you are living in the back of a VW then you are a hardship case and you are exempt on the individual mandate.
It’s now been redefined so that all you have to do is to claim that going into the exchange would create a hardship. It’s ironic, it makes Obamacare itself is the hardship, which is slightly eye ironic, but I think she is beyond the reach of irony so she didn’t quite see it. All you have to do is say this is hard on me, you sign a paper, you don’t have to provide any documentation. It’s essentially a cancellation of the mandate.
I think they’re either going to leave it at that so people will trickle down and learn you don’t have to sign up. You just have to sign a piece of paper that it’s a hardship. Or they will actually cancel it in midyear if there are people who haven’t heard by the grapevine and begin to get notices and begin to panic and begin to indicate they might vote against Democrats.
BAIER: So here is the word. If you have your plan canceled March 31st, you are supposed to pay a fine, $95 or one percent of your annual salary, whichever is greater. But you could fill out this form that says it’s a hardship and you don’t have to do that.
POWERS: To me the obvious question is why didn’t president Obama say this when he came out and apologize for the fact that people were losing their plans if he was so sorry and there is nothing I can do about it? Why didn’t you say there is actually something that can be done, there is this hardship exemption?
BAIER: They have figured it out.
POWERS: Here is the thing, most of the people that would use that exemption, they had insurance that they are losing. They want to have health insurance so they probably already have bought new health insurance because these are people who wanted health insurance in the first place. So the chances of them going past March 31st without it, there will be a handful of people who couldn’t afford it because their premiums went up so much, but a lot of those people, like me, already bought insurance.
BAIER: Which is the three quarters of the 4.2 million.
BAIER: Who had insurance before, George?
WILL: First of all, the IRS is the enforcement mechanism of the mandate, and they’re probably so busy suppressing political speech in this country they have no energy left for enforcing that.
This is kind of the Bobby McGee, Janice Joplin, administration right now. She said “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” Freedom is just a word for nothing left to delay. What is not delayed yet on Obamacare, particularly when they told the Supreme Court it’s absolutely crucial that we have the individual mandate. It turns out nothing is crucial, therefore nothing almost left of Obamacare.
KRAUTHAMMER: If I can add to Kirsten’s question, you weren’t cynical enough. When Obama announced the delay originally he was hoping that it would apply to a very small number of people because if a large number accepted they weren’t required to do Obamacare, it would kick out the financial struts under the exchanges. You need these people to go.
So he was pretending as if he was allowing people to go without it, but he did it in a way that would minimize the number. Under the new dispensation you could get millions who stay out of the exchanges and then it will really wreck the financial basis of the entire structure of Obamacare. That’s why he didn’t announce it.
POWERS: Because when he came out, he was basically saying, OK, I’m sorry that I did this to you but there is really nothing I can do about it. I’m OK with it if you don’t do your insurance — want your old insurance plan back, but the insurance companies won’t give your old insurance plan back. Why didn’t he tell people there is another option?
BAIER: So March 31 comes and goes?
WILL: Well, fewer people signed up in February than in January, fewer than in December. Now, the administration’s response is unanswerable, February is a shorter month. Indeed, it is. But the trajectory is down. Furthermore the moral foundation of Obamacare was we have to insure the uninsured. The administration says is doesn’t know how many are uninsured. Mackenzie says 27 percent.
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