Just another day of trying to log in to healthcare.gov.
Two weeks after its launch, the federal health insurance exchange is a “failure,” says the Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein. Some officials deserve to be fired, according to Robert Gibbs, who until February 2011 was one of President Obama’s closest advisers.
And those are the Affordable Care Act’s supporters.
Even the president conceded on Tuesday that healthcare.gov had “way more glitches than I think are acceptable.”
Those glitches could take months — or even years — to fix, according to reports. But there’s a key deadline looming: Jan. 1, 2014, when the ACA’s individual mandate takes effect.
Under the mandate, millions of Americans who were expected to use the exchanges to obtain health insurance will face fines if they haven’t purchased coverage by Feb. 15, raising the question of whether the mandate or other Obamacare provisions should be postponed — an uncomfortable position for an administration already trying to implement a politically divisive law.
But at this late date, what parts of the ACA can legally be delayed?
“In a sense, all of it,” Timothy Jost, a Washington & Lee law professor, told me. But “there’d be a high political price to pay. And delay could result in litigation.”
Jost was among several experts who spoke with me about the health insurance exchanges’ bumpy rollout, the ripple effects for the mandate and other provisions, and what it could all mean for implementing the ACA.
What Agencies Can and Can’t Do
When considering a delay to Obamacare, it’s important to understand the difference between statutory and discretionary deadlines.
For example, the ACA’s language directly calls for many mandatory deadlines — like rolling out the individual mandate or implementing a slew of insurance market reforms on Jan. 1, 2014.
But the agencies also have had considerable leeway on how they’ve chosen to apply the law — like choosing an Oct. 1 launch date for the exchanges, a deadline that retrospectively seems ambitious.