Manchin: Delay mandate penalty

WASHINGTON DC – U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is calling for a one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate” penalty provision.

President Barack Obama already has announced a six-week delay of the provision due to technical issues with the online insurance exchange.

Manchin and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., have proposed the individual mandate, which requires people to have insurance coverage or pay a penalty, should be delayed until Jan. 1, 2015, to give the federal government time to fix issues with the online registration system and insurance exchange. The system has been plagued with issues since its official rollout Oct. 1.

“We don’t believe there should be any fines whatever, any penalties. This should be a transition year,” Manchin said. “They shouldn’t be facing a fine because they can’t log in.”

Manchin said his and Isakson’s plan differ than other plans to modify the Affordable Health Care Act because it gives the federal government a set period of time to improve and fix the program, rather than adding more hoops to jump through or trying to delay it indefinitely.

“This gives us the time to fix the things we’ve identified and need to be fixed,” he said.

Manchin said he is unsure whether there will be a negative effect on more insurance companies participating in the exchanges. In West Virginia only one company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, is participating in the insurance exchange.

The individual mandate is intended to assure insurance companies they will be receiving premiums from healthy customers since they are now required to cover those with pre-existing conditions.

“I can’t say yea or nay on that,” Manchin said, but added the individual mandate was at the request of insurance companies, and those officials “are going to have to be part of the problem solving.”

Manchin said if he can get bipartisan support for the change, he believes Obama will consider the delay.

“I think he would take it in the most positive manner,” Manchin said. “We have to get a good bipartisan effort. I don’t get involved if its not bipartisan.”