The disappearing individual mandate in Obamacare

A new CBO report released on Friday shows that the number of Americans who will be penalized for not buying insurance under the Obamacare individual mandate has been slashed again - down to around 4 million.

The reason? President Obama has unilaterally decreed so many exemptions to the mandate that the vast majority of Americans who don't have insurance won't have to pay the tax.

Roll Call:

The CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) slashed their estimates for how many people will pay the individual mandate tax penalty in 2016 by a third — to 4 million from 6 million — citing exemptions granted by the Obama administration, including exemptions for people whose plans were cancelled because they did not meet the Affordable Care Act’s requirements.

That’ll lead to $4 billion in revenue in 2016 and $5 billion a year after that — a drop of about $3 billion a year. It will still generate $46 billion over a decade, the CBO said Thursday.

CQ Roll Call’s Rebecca Adams has reported extensively on this issue, noting that the IRS isn’t expected to do much to enforce the mandate anytime soon.

There are also numerous exemptions that mean 87 percent of the 30 million people who will still be without insurance will be able to avoid the tax.

That includes illegal immigrants — who aren’t eligible for Obamacare benefits — and low-income people.

Adams detailed the list of Obamacare exemptions here.

The mandate penalty will rise in 2016 to a minimum $695 per uninsured adult or 2.5 percent of adjusted gross income from $95 or 1 percent this year.

It’s considered the heart of the law and key to the ban on discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.

That’s because without it, many people would choose to wait until they are sick to buy insurance, driving up premiums. In turn, more people would forgo insurance.

Insurance companies have repeatedly argued for a robust mandate to buy insurance, warning of a death spiral without it.

The CBO had projected the law would cut the deficit significantly, especially in the second decade as provisions like a tax on “Cadillac” insurance plans start to kick in.

But as CQ Roll Call reported this week, the CBO has given up estimating the cost of the law.

What's the point of having an individual mandate if most violators can skate? There is no point to the policy, there is only the political calculation to lessen the damage to Democrats as we approach the mid term elections. Obamacare, the most punitive law ever passed, has made millions of people angry. Angry people vote. The fewer angry people, the better for Obama and the Democrats.

The fact that the CBO has given up estimating the cost of Obamacare is outrageous, as some Republicans complain:

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson has introduced a bill that would require the Congressional Budget Office to score Obamacare’s ultimate cost and effect on the federal deficit, after the CBO claimed earlier this week the health law had grown too complicated to score.

The “Truth in Obamacare Accounting Act” would require the CBO to continue to provide a full accounting of the Affordable Care Act’s effect on federal deficits.

“News this week has highlighted a real problem in how Congress accounts for this huge expansion of government health care spending,” Johnson said in a statement. “CBO undoubtedly faces considerable challenges in separating the impact of the law from some of the other programs that interact with it, but it can and should be able to estimate those costs and impacts so that Congress and the American people understand the true scope of financial harm that Obamacare is causing.”

The CBO, which has been rating Obamacare’s cost for years, announced in a footnote of an April report that it “can no longer determine exactly how the provisions of the ACA that are not related to the expansion of health insurance coverage have affected their projections of direct spending and revenues,” Roll Call reported Wednesday.

The abdication sparked some experts’ suspicions. Joseph Antos, a health-care expert at D.C. think tank the American Enterprise Institute, told Roll Call he doubted how the law could have changed enough since the CBO last scored its cost to make a cost analysis impossible.

“They don’t want to admit that what they assumed two years ago is no longer correct because the administration has not implemented many provisions of the law,” Antos said.

The CBO's credbility has already been damaged by their Obamacare estimates. Now, why would they give up trying to score it?

“They don’t want to admit that what they assumed two years ago is no longer correct because the administration has not implemented many provisions of the law,” Antos said.

The last time the CBO estimated Obamacare’s cost, it still projected that the health-care law would reduce savings. It’s unlikely a further report would turn out the same result. The CBO has admitted in several reports over the past year that the Obama administration’s unilateral changes to the law will lower its revenue by billions.

How much will Obamacare add to the national debt? Don't ask the CBO - they're too busy covering their behinds for previous wrong estimates.