What an incredible political turnabout. Mr. Obama and HHS used to insist that the new plans are better and less expensive after subsidies than the old "substandard" insurance. Now they're conceding that at least some people should be free to choose less costly plans if they prefer—or no plan—and ObamaCare's all-you-can-eat benefits rules aren't necessary for quality health coverage after all.
But the White House is shredding ObamaCare's economics on its own terms. Premiums for catastrophic products are based on the assumption that enrollees would be under 30. A 55-year-old will now get a steep discount on care courtesy of the insurer's balance sheet, while other risk-tiers on the exchanges will have even fewer customers to make the actuarial math work.
Pulling the thread of the individual mandate also means that the whole scheme could unravel. Waiving ObamaCare rules for some citizens and continuing to squeeze the individual economic liberties of others by forcing them to buy what the White House now concedes is an unaffordable product is untenable. Mr. Obama is inviting a blanket hardship amnesty for everyone, which is what Republicans should demand.
The new political risk that the rules are liable to change at any moment will also be cycled into 2015 premiums. Expect another price spike late next summer. With ObamaCare looking like a loss-making book of business, a public declaration of penance by the insurance industry for helping to sell ObamaCare is long overdue.
The only political explanation for relaxing enforcement of the individual mandate—even at the risk of destabilizing ObamaCare in the long term—is that the White House is panicked that the whole entitlement is endangered. The insurance terminations and rollout fiasco could leave more people uninsured in 2014 than in 2013. ObamaCare's unpopularity with the public could cost Democrats the Senate in 2014, and a GOP Congress in 2015 could compel the White House to reopen the law and make major changes.//