Everyday, at least since President Trump was inaugurated, I get asked if people still have to buy government approved health insurance or pay a tax penalty next spring with their 2017 tax return.
I was hoping that by now I would be able to give people a simple “NO”, but things tend not to be simple when the government gets involved.
The Individual Mandate and Shared Responsibility Payment (a.k.a. Tax Penalty) were dealt a death-blow with President Trump’s Executive Order on January 20. In that order he instructed all federal agencies, including HHS, CMS and IRS not to enforce any of the Obamacare penalties on American citizens.
The result is that things did not happen as fast as we wanted them to do. You still must make a decision. If you prefer to “play it safe” with an Obamacare compliant plan, you only have until January 31 to enroll. Click on the link below to enroll in a fully compliant plan if you live in TX.
Keep in mind that the tax penalty is not the only reason why you may want to enroll in an Obamacare plan. They may be your only option if you have a “pre-existing condition” or want full maternity coverage.
However, Obamacare plans are not the only type of plans available for Texans. If you feel comfortable that President Trump and the Republican Congress will get rid of the Individual Mandate and Tax Penalty, at some point in 2017, and there are no “pre-existing conditions” or need for full maternity coverage, click on the link below to find something that is less expensive.
WHAT’S HAPPENED SO FAR
While that Executive Order gave Obamacare a mortal wound, it did not kill it completely. An Executive Order is only binding on federal employees. It is not binding on all Americans. The only way to change national law is through congress.
In early January, both houses of congress passed resolutions calling for the use of the Budget Reconciliation process to partially repeal Obamacare by January 27. However, January 27 came and went without a repeal. Here is why.
In order to repeal Obamacare, whether completely or partially, a presidential signature must be attached to anything that comes out of congress. On, or about, January 24, President Trump signaled that he is willing to repeal Obamacare legislation, but only when congress has agreed on an acceptable replacement plan.
In 2009, president Obama allowed the Health Care debates to last for almost a year before Harry Reid wrote the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act in private. During that time the level of division that I saw in the country rivaled the level of divisions I saw during the Viet-Nam conflict protests of the late 60s and early 70s. The only difference I saw was in the way people were dressed and the chants that were used.
Obviously, president Trump does not want a repeat of that division. His instructions were that a replacement plan MUST be ready to go within hours of a repeal.
WHAT COULD POTENTIALLY HAPPEN
If congress had successfully repealed the Individual Mandate on January 27 but left the rest of the law in tact, without a replacement plan, they could wait to establish a replacement plan until it was too late to implement any changes for 2018.
President Trump’s insistence that a replacement plan be available at the same time as repeal is, in my opinion, a wise move designed to minimize national debate and subsequent division.
There are always going to be some people who refuse to be satisfied. They scream to anyone who will listen. President Trump’s decision, while admittedly not ideal in the short run, should limit the time we have to listen to the protesters about health insurance.
I am certain that after a replacement plan is rolled out by the government, many of the same folk who are screaming about how “heartless” Trump and the Republicans are about health insurance, will find something else to complain about.
DECISIONS YOU MUST MAKE BY JANUARY 31
In the mean time, if you are an American citizen without access to group health insurance, you have to make a choice. If you feel like an “Obamacare” compliant plan is the right thing for you, you must complete your enrollment by January 31. There is a link above to allow Texans to do that.
If you think that President Trump and the Republican congress will repeal and replace Obamacare this year, and you qualify, you may want to apply for a less expensive plan to cover you for 2017. There is also a link above that will allow Texans to do that.
If you want to play things safe, you may decide to enroll in an Obamacare compliant plan now with the idea that you will change to the less expensive option after congress and Trump officially repeal Obamacare.
The strategy above makes perfect sense, but there is one variable that must be considered. The alternative plan may not be available after Obamacare is repealed and replaced. If that happens, and you elect to use the strategy above, keep in mind that there is a chance that you will be committed to your Obamacare compliant plan for all of 2017.