Florida Republican Rep. Trey Radel will introduce legislation to delay the Obamacare fines on individuals and families until six months after HealthCare.gov website is fully functional, companion legislation to a bill that his fellow Floridian, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will introduce in the Senate.
Under the Affordable Care Act, individuals who qualify for plans under the law will be fined beginning early 2014 if they have not enrolled in an insurance plan. But the website through which two-thirds of Americans would enroll in a plan, HealthCare.gov, has been plagued with “glitches” that have made it exceedingly difficult to navigate, and left the majority of visitors unable to sign up for insurance. The administration is working to fix the problems, but there is not yet a clear date for when the website will be fully operational.
As such, Radel and Rubio will introduce the legislation to ensure that people have adequate time to sign up for health insurance before they begin getting fined. The fines would be delayed until six months after the Government Accountability Office certified the website as fully functional. The legislation will also “[exempt] people from paying the mandate fines if they can prove that they tried to sign up but could not because of technical or customer service issues,” Rubio said in a statement earlier this week.
Describing HealthCare.gov as “completely unusable,” Radel explained in a statement: “This bill delays the Obamacare fine on you and your family until you can actually sign up for health coverage, a common sense concept lost on an Administration determined to force this law on you at any cost.”
Both and he and Rubio plan to introduce the legislation next week.
“It is not fair that next year Americans will be punished for not buying Obamacare when the website they are supposed to buy it on doesn’t work,” Rubio said in a statement earlier this week. “That is why I will offer legislation to delay the individual mandate to buy insurance until the GAO certifies that the Obamacare exchange website has been fixed and fully functional for at least six months.”
At a press briefing on Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to say whether the administration would consider such a delay if the necessary fixes to the website take a long time. Noting that it was still early — “We’re three weeks into a six-month enrollment period,” Carney referred reporters to Health and Human Services, saying, “they are working on aligning those policies, the enrollment period and the individual responsibility timeframe period, and they’ll issue guidance soon.”