An Open Letter to the United States Congress: Support Delays of the Individual Mandate

Dear Members of Congress:

No one can deny that the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has encountered some serious obstacles. As government agencies struggle to execute the law and individuals struggle to comply, legislators should support plans to delay PPACA’s individual health insurance mandate.

This simple “time out” is a common-sense solution to a litany of problems taxpayers are facing. Since the October 1 launch of the federal health insurance exchange website, consumers have found the website difficult to log onto as well as navigate. Further there are serious privacy concerns regarding the pages and pages of personal information consumers input. The obvious lack of proper testing, a plethora of ongoing bugs, and even allegations of pirated code, all indicate that the federal online exchange is not ready for primetime.

In response, the Administration has issued a delay of the enrollment deadline until March 31 while a “tech surge” attempts to get the website up and running. This comes on top of employer mandate and reporting delays issued in July.  However, a few additional months to comply is cold comfort for the millions who are learning their current health insurance plans are cancelled under the guidelines of the President’s health care law.

Mounting chaos in the face of PPACA implementation has made two things clear: the Administration needs more time to properly facilitate the online exchanges and consumers need to know what the future will look like. While National Taxpayers Union (NTU) continues to advocate repeal and replacement of the flawed health care legislation as the best path forward, we also support efforts to delay the individual mandate.  Doing so would provide immediate, albeit temporary, relief to consumers and administrators.

To that end, NTU recommends several legislative remedies. Specifically, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Trey Radel (R-FL) have introduced S. 1592/H.R. 3359 the “Delay Until Fully Functional Act,” which would delay the individual mandate until six months from the time the American Health Benefit Exchange website can be certified by the Government Accountability Office to be fully operational. Representative Dan Lipinski (D-IL) has introduced H.R. 3425, the “Health Care Access Fairness and Penalty Delay Act,” containing an operational certification requirement from the Health and Human Services Inspector General (unless the Administration fails to meet the goal of a fully functional site by November 30). An enrollment deadline of 90 days, followed by an additional 30 days for imposition of the penalty, would be triggered after certification. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) plans to introduce a full one-year delay of the individual mandate, providing individuals with the same reprieve the Administration’s earlier delay extended to employers. In September, Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) introduced S. 1488, a bill that would codify the Administration’s constitutionally questionable employer mandate delay and pause the individual mandate until 2015.

At a time of increasing confusion over the future of health care, these bills would provide a measure of reassurance to the families and individuals who need it most. NTU and its 362,000 members urge all Members of Congress to support these bills and work toward the swift enactment of an individual mandate delay.

Nan Swift
Federal Affairs Manager