GOP critics are pummeling a "stealth" Obamacare exemption that gives "essentially everyone" a pass on the individual mandate that all Americans be insured, or face a penalty.
"There's a real question as to whether the White House just abandoned the individual mandate," House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday
about the rule change
, Fox News reported. ""It just seems they are hoping no one will notice."
The change was quietly made in late December, allowing people to qualify for a "hardship exemption," and letting them off the hook for a penalty for not buying insurance, if they "experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance." It was first reported by the Wall Street Journal Wednesday.
The change offers "an exemption to everyone who conceivably wants one," the Journal said
"This is a huge public policy decision that could affect millions of Americans," Boehner said, Fox News reported, adding the change, coming ahead of the March 31 enrollment deadline, applies to "essentially everyone."
"The latest extension puts the final nail in the mandate coffin, since now only a fool would pay the penalty," Investor's Business Daily said
in an editorial.
"Time to start over, Mr. President."
Economist Doug Holtz-Eakin, who leads the American Action Forum, told Fox News, "The door's wide open. [The] mandate which they said was absolutely crucial to Obamacare is falling apart day by day."
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius defended the "hardship exemptions" during testimony Thursday before a House subcommittee.
"It's been really aimed at people who could not afford coverage one way or the other," she said. She noted that the list includes people who live in states that did not expand eligibility for Medicaid.
But Holtz-Eakin, who was director of the Congressional Budget Office in the George W. Bush administration, told Fox News that for someone to qualify for the latest waiver, they could simply say they couldn't get through on HealthCare.gov, or that plans were too pricey — or that a special condition they have didn't appear to be covered.
Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, on a Fox News panel Wednesday, declared the hardship exemption "essentially a cancellation of the individual mandate.”
“[HHS Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius is implying it was in the plan all the time, in the bill,” Krauthammer said.
“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 from the individual mandate.”
“All you have to do is say, ‘You know, this is hard on me,”’ Krauthammer added. “You sign a paper, you don’t have to provide any other documentation. It’s essentially a cancellation of the mandate.”
Fellow panelist George Will noted the change would devastate Obamacare.
“They told the Supreme Court, ‘It’s absolutely crucial that we have the individual mandate,’” he said. “Turns out nothing is crucial. Therefore, nothing is almost left of Obamacare.”
Lawmakers hope to prevent another "stealth delay."
On Fox News Channel's "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren"
Thursday, Florida Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis said a bill that has passed the House aims to rein in what Republicans call executive overreach — including Obamacare implementation delays.
The House bill would require a federal official to report to Congress whenever he or she decided not to enforce laws. President Barack Obama has said he'd veto any such law.
"They're now doing these stealth delays of Obamacare where they're burying this in a footnote in some unrelated piece of regulation," DeSantis charged.
Republican strategist Karl Rove, who worked in the George W. Bush White House, told Van Susteren that Bush made "signing statements" during his presidency, but they weren't as sneaky as Obama's latest health care law delay.
Instead, he would spell out why he thought certain sections of the law were unconstitutional, thereby giving Congress a means of challenging him in court.
Obama, however, signed the whole law, and decided to delay portions for political purposes, Rove said.
Obama "didn't do it at the time of the signing statement, didn't even draw attention to it, just sort of snuck it into another regulation, hid the language," he said.
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