WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama decreed Thursday that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate penalty shall not apply to some of the individuals whose insurance plans have been outlawed by his signature health care law, more commonly known as Obamacare.
The Obama administration will ease the pain of implementing the law by granting a “hardship exemption” to anyone who had their prior insurance cancelled and “believes” plans offered at healthcare.gov are unaffordable. The exemption provision was already included in the law, but did not previously apply to all of those who lost their insurance. Those who take the exemption will be allowed to purchase so-called “catastrophic” plans that are, in some cases, thousands of dollars cheaper than the typical bronze level plans.
According to TheHill.com, Sen. Angus King was part of a group of Democratic senators who asked the White House Wednesday whether those who had their coverage cancelled would qualify for the exemption. The group included many Democratic senators who are regarded as vulnerable in the upcoming midterm elections, including Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.).
The Obama administration has downplayed the scope of cancellations, insisting that less than one million people have lost their insurance because of Obamacare. Conservative critics have said the number may be as high as 15 million.
In Maine, more than 10,000 individual market customers received cancellation letters or forced modification notices. Some of these individuals may have retained their prior coverage as a result of the Obama administration’s November decision to allow insurance companies to continue offering plans Obamacare made illegal.