Yuval Levin: “no one will pay the individual mandate fine for 2014”

December 20th, 2013

Levin echoes a point I made earlier. Why would anyone be stupid enough to pay the Obamacare mandate/penalty/unicorn?

First, the individual mandate is probably done for. I would now assume that no one will pay the individual mandate fine for 2014. The administration may give up on the mandate in the course of the ongoing enrollment period if the political pressure is great enough, or they may keep up the pretense of it through the end of the enrollment period in March (when it will have finished its work, so to speak, since its purpose is to influence choices made during that period) but then exempt everyone from it as they did with the employer mandate for this year. Having now exempted from the fine people whose policies were cancelled and who haven’t spent the money to get more expensive and less appealing new coverage, the politics of still applying the fine to everyone else who is uninsured this year will probably just not be sustainable, and the politics of exempting people from it (especially if they can hold out on doing so until after March 31) will be far too appealing for this White House to resist. They may claim the mandate will be back in 2015, but if they do exempt everyone from it in 2014 it will be hard to bring it back.


It will probably be waived for some, if not all people. See, selective enforcement is contrary to the rule of law, and upsets various reliance interests in consistent application of the law. Obamacare has wrought so many consequences. Further, there is no way you exempt people in 2014, and not 2015. It’s done.

Plus, forget about all the arguments to the Court how essential the mandate was to the ACA. Live to fight another day is the Obamacare mantra.

The administration claimed in court in 2012 that the mandate was absolutely essential to Obamacare’s implementation, and maybe it was. But they have come to realize over the past few months that Obamacare as they envisioned it is not really going to happen, and their goal now is to enable the survival of whatever elements of it can survive, so that they can regroup when the dust settles and try to rebuild some form of the liberal approach to health financing. The mandate is becoming an impediment to that goal, and it strikes me as reasonably likely now that it will not survive.

The unraveling continues.