In the Obama administration’s continuing rule by decree, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has announced that those whose health insurance policies were terminated (notwithstanding Obama’s vow to the contrary) will be allowed to buy catastrophic coverage and will be exempt from the statutory penalty if they choose to escape from Obamacare next year. Robert Pear reports in the Times that Sebelius “disclosed the sudden policy shift in a letter to Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, and five other senators.”
Here’s the beauty part. The announcement falls under Obamacare’s hardship exemption applicable to those who “experienced financial or domestic circumstances, including an unexpected natural or human-caused event, such that he or she had a significant, unexpected increase in essential expenses that prevented him or her from obtaining coverage under a qualified health plan.” You can read HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s full letter here. HHS’s formal guidance is here.
The announcement that the hardship exemption may apply to protect individuals with terminated plans from the mandate penalty is confined to Sebelius’s letter. It is not in the HHS guidance, which as far as I can tell only addresses the permitted substitution of catastrophic coverage for a compliant Obamacare plan.
The termination of insurance plans required by Obamacare is now deemed “an unexpected natural or human-caused event.” In other words, for those brought within the scope of the announcement, “Obamacare itself is the hardship.” Like terrorism by Janet Napolitanos’s lights, Obamacare is a man-caused disaster.
I’m not making that up. The Washington Post Wonklbog’s Ezra Klein (the founder of JournoList and a favored outlet for administration spin) says so himself. Klein adds: “This puts the first crack in the individual mandate.” Klein has more and his comments are helpful in their entirety.
We are well into the banana republic phase of Obamacare and my Adventures in administrative law series, to which this post rightly belongs. As the mad dictator Esposito has it: “All children under 16 years old are now 16 years old.” Modified to the spirit of Obamacare, of course, pending further notice, that would be “all children under age 18 are now children up to age 26.”
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