Two bills cracking down on ObamaCare’s individual mandate are being fast-tracked through the Senate, setting up a potential election-year fight over the healthcare law.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) placed two GOP bills on the Senate calendar Thursday. The procedural move, known as Rule 14, allows the proposals to skip over the committee process.
One measure, from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), would exempt people from ObamaCare’s individual mandate if they live in a county with fewer than two options for coverage. The second proposal, from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), would exempt people from the individual mandate if a state’s average premium increases by more than 10 percent.

Senate Republicans have returned from a seven-week recess with a unified message they plan to repeat until November: Obamacare is imploding.

News of double-digit premium increases in 2017, insurers pulling out of the marketplace, failing co-ops, and low enrollment numbers have handed an opportunity to Senate Republicans who worried about losing the majority in the fall. They get to say, “I told you so,” after a six years of Obamacare messaging, and they get to tell voters that a GOP majority will fix these issues.

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When lawmakers and advocates were pushing to pass the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, the list of promises to the American people was long.

The law was supposed to dramatically reduce the number of uninsured, the average family was supposed to save an average of $2,500 in health-insurance premiums per year, and we were going to be able to keep our doctors and insurance plans. But the ACA has failed on these promises.

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Former Obama administration official Donald Berwick once called the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) “the jewel in the crown of health-care reform.” The metaphor is apt: CMMI, more than any other aspect of Obamacare, is an imperial enterprise.

Congress established CMMI in the Obamacare statute with the goal of finding ways to reduce federal spending on medical care without diminishing its quality. That, of course, is the responsibility of Congress, which created the Medicare program and which alone bears responsibility for making legislative changes to it.

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A group of Republican senators on Wednesday introduced a bill to exempt people from ObamaCare’s individual mandate if they live in a county with one or no options for coverage.

 The lawmakers, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), argue that it is wrong for people to face ObamaCare’s financial penalty for lacking insurance if there is only one insurer offering coverage in their area, or none at all.
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Our constitutional system was carefully designed to prevent any one branch from seizing too much control over the entire government. Only Congress can write legislation; only the President can execute the laws; only the courts can judge whether the laws are constitutional.

This balance of powers, however, does not maintain itself. It is a dynamic equilibrium requiring each branch of government to protect and fully exercise its rightful authorities. When one branch encroaches on another, that balance is endangered — and so are the freedoms the separation of powers were intended to protect.

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An Obamacare provision designed to inject a protective extra layer of competition into fledgling insurance markets fell into near-oblivion — and its failure has made Obamacare’s mounting challenges even more acute.

Under the unwieldy name of the Multi-State Plan Program, the federal government was supposed to contract with two private health plans, at least one a nonprofit. Each is required to offer coverage in all 50 states by next year. But it’s fallen short, reaching fewer states than anticipated, and offering plans that mirror options people already have.

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The Obama administration proposed this week new rules for its Risk Adjustment program, a critical component of the Affordable Care Act. There are actually some better-late-than-never parts of the proposal. Most notably the new rules will try to compensate for the extra expense insurers incur when people exploit ACA regulatory and enforcement weaknesses to time their insurance purchases to cover only expensive medical emergencies.

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Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart can hardly believe he’s giving some consumers this advice: If you can’t find an affordable, full-fledged health insurance policy, he tells them, maybe you should consider going without one.

The Affordable Care Act started requiring most Americans to have health insurance in 2014. But the law offers an exemption for people who can’t find policies that would cost them less than about 8 percent of their household incomes.

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Six Republican Senators introduced a bill that would exempt consumers living in counties where zero or one insurer is offering plans on the federal exchanges from the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

The legislation comes after several recent analyses have shown the number of U.S. counties with one insurer offering plans on the Affordable Care Act exchange is expected to increase next year. Pinal County in Arizona currently has no insurers planning to offer plans on the marketplace. Under the 2010 health care law, people who are able to afford health insurance are required to purchase insurance or pay a fine to the federal government.

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