The health law’s individual mandate requires everyone to either maintain qualifying health coverage or pay a tax penalty, known as a “shared responsibility payment.” The IRS was set to require filers to indicate whether they had maintained coverage in 2016 or paid the penalty by filling out line 61 on their form 1040s. Alternatively, they could claim exemption from the mandate by filing a form 8965.
For most filers, filling out line 61 would be mandatory. The IRS would not accept 1040s unless the coverage box was checked, or the shared responsibility payment noted, or the exemption form included. Otherwise they would be labeled “silent returns” and rejected.
Instead, however, filling out that line will be optional.
Officially, the law is still in effect. The Trump Administration simply refuses to enforce it.
The move has already raised questions about its legality. Federal law gives the administration broad authority to provide exemptions from the mandate. But “it does not allow the administration not to enforce the mandate, which it appears they may be doing here,” says Michael Cannon, health policy director at the libertarian Cato Institute. “Unless the Trump administration maintains the mandate is unconstitutional, the Constitution requires them to enforce it.”
“The mandate can only be weakened by Congress,” says Ellis. “This is a change to how the IRS is choosing to enforce it. They will count on voluntary disclosure of non-coverage rather than asking themselves.”
In any case, the enforcement of the individual mandate is the keystone that holds up the entire Obamacare edifice. Without the mandate, an actuarial death spiral is all but certain.
Obamacare has been in trouble for years but its collapse will now be attributed to sabotage rather than poor design.
Health insurer Humana is leaving the Affordable Care Act’s public insurance exchanges for next year as it regroups after ending its proposed combination with rival insurer Aetna.
Humana Inc. covers about 150,000 people on exchanges in 11 states.
The insurer said Tuesday it had taken several actions to improve that business, but it was still seeing signs of unbalanced risk in that customer population. Health insurers have struggled to attract enough healthy people to their risk pools to balance the claims they incur from people with expensive medical conditions.