Nine House Democrats have proposed a delay in the individual mandate penalties until 120 days after the inspector general certifies the healthcare.gov website is completely functional. Meanwhile, 10 Democratic senators â€“ seven of them up for reelection in 2014 â€“ sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying they are “discouraged and frustrated with the problems.” They also asked for a delay in enforcing the individual mandate.
“You’re going to see more calls for delay,” Jan Crawford of CBS News predicted last weekend on Face the Nation. “But that raises its own problems. Because you’re going to have the sick people, who have been so anxious for this insurance because they’ve been denied coverageâ€¦they’re the ones who are going to get it.
“But what has to happen is that the young healthiesâ€¦they’re the ones who have to sign up to make this whole thing work. If they don’t sign up â€“ and they have no incentive because there’s no penalty; the hammer’s been taken off the table â€“ then you get this concern about the death spiral.”
A New York Times editorial comes to the same conclusion: “Any delay past March 31 would disrupt the basis on which premiums were set for the new policies going into effect next year. … If the enrollment period is extended for a significant period, the sickest people are most likely to sign up early and the healthiest will likely hang back, driving up the costs for insurers and making premium increases likely the following year.”
The industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans also opposes a delay. Extending the enrollment period would have “a destabilizing effect on insurance markets,” spokesman Robert Zirkelbach said.
Both the President and Sebelius have said a delay isn’t necessary. If the website is fixed by Nov. 30, as the administration believes it will be, customers will still have four months to sign up.