That was the justification for this new dispensation from on high. It had to be issued to accommodate the unfortunate event described by the administration as “your current health-insurance policy is being canceled and you consider other available policies unaffordable” — in other words, the inherent logic of the law. The president had previously announced that the administration would decline to enforce its own rules causing those cancellations. When that proved ineffectual, it went further. The smart betting is that this partial suspension of the individual mandate next year will eventually be followed by a full suspension.
The administration’s previous on-the-fly change, about a week earlier, had the same desperate feel. It issued a series of new demands on insurance companies. As Yuval Levin, editor of the journal National Affairs, summarized the edict, it asked them “to pay claims for consumers who haven’t paid their premiums, to treat out-of-network doctors and hospitals as though they were in-network, and to pay for prescription drugs not actually covered by the plans they offer.”
The point of all this is simply to live until tomorrow. To avoid the worst consequences of the catastrophically poor design of the law, to give frightened Democrats some cover, to temporize and hope something turns up. Needless to say, we aren’t talking about some obscure piece of uncontroversial legislation that, because it got so little notice, was poorly crafted. This is the president’s signature law. That its implementation is so shot through with panicked, poorly conceived improvisation is — to use a favorite word of its supporters upon its passage — historic.
At his end-of-the-year press conference, President Obama hoped for a better 2014. But come Jan. 1, Obamacare will still loom, and he will, no doubt, have to find new, yet more inventive ways to try to escape.
— Rich Lowry may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.