Here’s how Douglas Holtz-Eakin explains it:
Late yesterday — that is, after the news cycle closed on the Thursday before the de facto Friday off before the holiday weekend, which is certainly just a coincidence coming from an administration that has dumped more important policy announcements in this fashion than they’ve had the spine to announce — HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius…in a letter to Senator Mark Warner announced that the administration was 1) waiving the individual mandate for those with cancelled policies, and 2) Waiving the age limitations on catastrophic plans so those with cancelled policies can purchase a catastrophic plan.
This is a big deal. Substantively, it opens the door to deferring the mandate entirely and by acknowledging that catastrophic plans would be suitable coverage it makes a lie of all the rhetoric about how existing insurance (“underinsurance”) is “subpar” and “poor”. It will be fine for 2014. And it represents another round of changing the rules of the game for citizens and insurers. It is ridiculously unfair to the latter, who the president just asked to cover bills even if they had not been paid, or even if it was not clear the person had a policy.
…Nobody — not the president, not Sebelius, not even a press flack — took responsibility and faced the American people. Instead, it was done via a letter and leaked blog post. And it is a mere 4 days before people were supposed to be obligated to be insured. Shameful. Period.
My theory: Barack Obama never has been in charge. He takes vacations, plays golf and delivers compelling speeches. But nothing more than that.