On the other hand, Joseph Antos, a healthcare analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-of-center think tank, said he thinks a delay in the penalty for not obtaining coverage is possible. “If they can't get their act together, and they don't make their November deadline, it's really hard to argue you will hold people accountable for coverage,” he said.
Joel Ario, a managing director for Manatt Health Solutions who formerly ran the CMS' health exchanges office, said he doesn't expect a delay in the individual mandate primarily because many state-run exchanges are generally operating well. Even so, he predicted there will continue to be calls for delaying the individual mandate until the federal website is fixed. “If it is fixed, nobody will remember it in six months,” Ario said. “If it doesn't get fixed, the administration will face some decisions—and there are no good options.”
Meanwhile, analysts worry about the ripple effects that a delay would have on the law's health insurance exchanges. Edwin Park, vice president for health policy at the left-of-center Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, pointed to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the House-passed bill to delay the individual mandate that estimated a yearlong delay would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 11 million in 2014.
At last week's House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the botched rollout of the federal website, panel Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said it appears unlikely that the exchange plans will enroll enough young and healthy adults in the first year—about 2.3 million by the CMS' estimate—which will cause premiums to “go through the roof” in 2015.
But CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner countered by saying more than 200 insurers in the federal exchange alone have offered more than 3,000 plans at competitive prices. “So far what we've seen is the absolute opposite of what you're suggesting,” she said.