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Boehner asks about mandate reprieve for individuals, families

House Speaker John Boehner Boehner
A week after the Obama administration announced a yearlong delay in the healthcare reform law's employer mandate, House Republicans are demanding that the White House explain why it hasn't extended the same reprieve to individuals and families.

“Healthcare costs are going through the roof. I think Sen. Baucus had it right—this is a train wreck,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday during a news conference on Capitol Hill, referring to the Montana Democrat's limited remark about the implementation of health insurance exchanges. “This is what happens when you ram through a gigantic bill that no one has ever read,” he continued. “But just delaying the employer mandate, frankly, isn't good enough. Today, we sent a letter to the president asking him to justify delaying the employer mandate while leaving in place the mandate on individuals and families.”

The letter (PDF)—signed by Boehner and other House GOP leaders—also asked the administration to notify Congress if it will delay any other of the law's provisions before Oct. 1, the starting date for open enrollment on the exchanges. And the GOP leaders want the administration to provide any analysis it might have about the effect of the employer mandate regarding a host of other issues, such as the change in the number of individuals receiving federal tax subsidies through the exchanges next year; changes in enrollment in Medicaid for 2014; and the effect on the ability of the Internal Revenue Service and the exchanges to “accurately verify and prevent fraud” when it comes to individual eligibility for premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies. The lawmakers have asked for responses to their questions by July 16.

Meanwhile, a new survey from HealthPocket—a free website that ranks all health plans—released Tuesday said 41% of consumers believe the temporary delay for employers should also apply to uninsured individuals. The survey of 884 people across the country took place between July 3-5 and found that nearly half of the respondents were not certain if the fine on consumers without health insurance in 2014 should be waived, while 12% said the consumer penalty should remain.

There's no indication that President Barack Obama and his administration have any intention of delaying the individual mandate and the start of the state health insurance exchanges. Experts say the delay in the employer mandate may somewhat increase the cost of federal subsidies, but that could be offset by a drop in the cost of deductions for employer-provided coverage.

Follow Jessica Zigmond on Twitter: @MHjzigmond


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