The U.S. House of Representatives has a vote scheduled today to delay the individual mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act in addition to the employer mandate, which was already delayed by the Obama administration on July 2. If the vote goes through, it will move to the U.S. Senate.
According to a spokesperson for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the intent of the vote is to give “average” Americans the same break given to businesses by Obama with the employer mandate. “It’s a matter of fairness … It is our intention to provide as much relief to struggling families and businesses as we can while continuing diligent oversight of the implementation process, ultimately protecting Americans from this law’s disastrous side effects,” the committee spokesperson said in a statement.
The individual mandate, which requires all Americans to have insurance by 2014, will penalize those without insurance on their tax return in the amount of $95, or 1% of annual income, in the first year. The penalty increases to $695 by 2016, according to the ACA as it currently stands. H.R. 2668, the Fairness for American Families Act introduced by Rep. Todd Young (R – Ind.), is a one-year delay of the individual mandate and does not specify any adjustments in penalty amounts.
A report issued recently by the Urban Institute shows that while the employer mandate delay “has almost no effect on overall coverage under the ACA … Eliminating the individual mandate, however, would significantly increase the number of uninsured compared to full implementation of ACA,” the analysis states. Also, the institute finds: “In the absence of an individual mandate, the rate of employer-sponsored insurance coverage would be lower than under full ACA: 54.7% of the nonelderly compared to 57.1% of the nonelderly.”
While the bill may stand a chance at passage in the Republican-controlled House, the Democrat-led Senate is much less likely to support it. “The individual responsibility provision in the Affordable Care Act is a key element of a new system that, in tandem with the insurance marketplaces that will be up and running this fall, will ensure that everyone has access to quality, comprehensive health insurance. As the marketplaces go ‘live’ on October 1, it’s vitally important that as many people enroll as possible — including the young and healthy — to keep coverage affordable for everyone,” says Sen. Tom Harkin (D - Iowa), chairman of Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
Tanya Boyd a broker and owner of Tanya Boyd & Associates in Sunnyvale, Texas, is conflicted about how to feel about the vote. “For my business, if the individual mandate stays, I believe there will be more business, especially with the delay of the employer mandate. So we’re preparing for a very busy 4th quarter,” she says. “If it doesn’t go through though, I would feel a sense of relief for the American people because I don’t think the administration is ready and I do not believe insurance will be affordable.”
Boyd believes the ACA has turned into a big dilemma for brokers like herself.
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