By training I was a policy guy. By career, I’m a symbolic analytical plumber. By hobby, I’m a political junkie.
The recent announcement that individuals whose non-PPACA compliant individual plans are being cancelled on Jan. 1, 2014 is first and foremost a political decision with plumbing and policy impacts.
The individual mandate includes a “hardship exemption.” People who qualify can either ignore the individual mandate altogether or purchase a cheap, bare-bones catastrophic insurance plan that’s typically only available to people under 30.
2. According to HHS, the exemption covers people 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.”
3. Today, the administration agreed with a group of senators, led by Mark Warner of Virginia, who argued that having your insurance plan canceled counted as “an unexpected natural or human-caused event.” For these people, in other words, Obamacare itself is the hardship. You can read HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ full letter here. HHS’s formal guidance is here.
The political reason is to save a net one or two Democratic Senate seats next fall by removing middle and upper class PPACA losers from being overwhelmingly pissed off.
So what are the plumbing and policy implications?