Hardship Clause May Exempt "Millions" From ACA's Individual Mandate.

Coverage picks up Friday of the so-called "hardship exemption" that, though announced with little fanfare, could spare millions of uninsured from a penalty under the Affordable Care Act this year. The Washington Times (3/14, Howell) reports House Republicans say the Obama Administration "has left a giant loophole in its own individual mandate," alleging that "a vaguely worded 'hardship' exception announced last week will let millions of Americans duck the law."

Bloomberg News (3/14, Wayne) also says that "millions of people may be exempt" from the individual mandate, explaining: "homeless people or homeowners who've been foreclosed upon can apply for an exemption. So can those whose utilities have been shut off, who have suffered domestic violence or who have experienced a death in their families."

The Wall Street Journal (3/14, Radnosfky, Hughes) "Washington Wire" blog quotes the HHS rule which provided for this exemption, which reads, "On December 19, 2013, CMS issued guidance indicating that individuals whose policies are canceled because the coverage is not compliant with the Affordable Care Act qualify for a hardship exemption if they find other options to be more expensive, and are able to purchase catastrophic coverage. This hardship exemption will continue to be available until October 1, 2016, for those individuals whose non-compliant coverage is canceled and who meet the requirements specified in the guidance."

In its report on the exemption, the Huffington Post (3/14, Linkins) blasts an editorial Share to FacebookTwitter, run Thursday, in which the Wall Street Journal "bragg[ed] about unearthing a closely guarded 'secret'" which turned out not to be a secret at all. Indeed, the piece concludes, the idea that the ACA's "hardship exemption" had "somehow escaped the attention of the media is straight nonsense."

Additional coverage of the hardship exemption, or ACA "loophole," is offered by the FOX News (3/14) website, CQ (3/14, Attias, Subscription Publication), Columbus (OH) Business First (3/14, Hoover), the Wichita Falls (TX) Times Record News (3/14, Ingle), and cable news programs including MSNBC's Daily Rundown (3/13), FOX News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson (3/13), and FOX News' Fox and Friends (3/13).

House Advances Bill To Delay Individual Mandate For Five Years. The Hill (3/14, Kasperowicz) "Floor Action" blog reports that on Thursday, the House "advanced a bill to delay enforcement" of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate five years, despite "Democratic complaints that the bill would raise insurance premiums and leave millions uninsured."

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