The long blue line in Congress on Obamacare breaks
Democrats have been massively resistant to any changes proposed by Republicans to Obamacare. But the failure of so many Obamacare co-ops has left tens of thousands of citizens without an insurance option, which could lead to a fine by the IRS if they don't get coverage. In response, Republicans proposed eliminating the individual mandate for those consumers who lost coverage when the co-ops went belly up.
Yesterday, about 25% of Senate Democrats broke with their party and supported the Republican bill.
House Republicans voted Tuesday to exempt former Obamacare enrollees from the individual mandate if they lose insurance due to the collapse of one of the federally-backed markets.
And while President Obama threatened to veto the bill if it reaches his desk, 16 Democrats joined with Republicans to pass the bill, which passed 258-165.
Most Democrats argued that the exemption was unnecessary, and said some markets are closing because Republicans have blocked federal subsidies to the insurance companies. But Republicans embraced the opportunity to highlight an unpopular provision of the law.
"This is a short, simple bill with a basic premise — if you are a consumer who complied with the ACA's individual mandate by purchasing health insurance through one of the Consumer Oriented and Operated Plans, or CO-OPs, created under the law, and your plan was terminated mid-year by the failure of that CO-OP, you shouldn't be liable for the individual mandate for the remainder of that calendar year," Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., the original sponsor of the bill, said during a Ways and Means Committee hearing earlier this month.
Seventeen of the 23 Obamacare co-ops have failed, despite receiving $1.7 billion in taxpayer funding. But the GOP legislation left Democrats crying foul. "If they would cooperate, if they would refine, if they would try and solve problems rather than creating new ones we could make it work even better," Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said on the House floor.
House Republicans touted the bill as a simple way to shelter people from the penalties imposed by the individual mandate. "It's bad enough people are left without insurance because of the failures of Obamacare, but why should we have the IRS punish them on top of that," Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., asked during the floor debate.
The eternal complaint from Democrats when it comes to GOP opposition to Obamacare: You're not letting us throw enough money at the problem!
With more state exchanges likely closing this year as a result of insurers fleeing the red ink generated by Obamacare, the suspension of the mandate will probably be broadened to include those consumers who don't have any options at all for insurance.
Is this the beginning of the end of the individual mandate? Given President Obama's threat to veto this commonsense legislation, it almost certainly does herald the downfall of one of the more odious provisions in a flawed and wasteful program.