Topics: Obamacare

Debbie Wasserman Schultz won't say if she backs individual mandate delay if Healthcare.gov isn't fixed by March 2014

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Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida dodged questions Tuesday about whether she would support delaying Obamacare's individual mandate if Healthcare.gov isn't fixed by March 31, 2014, when open enrollment ends.

Speaking with MSNBC's Chuck Todd on “The Daily Rundown,” Wasserman Schultz said she would be open to extending the open enrollment period, but declined multiple times to say if she would to delaying the individual mandate.

Instead, Wasserman Schultz said people should obtain health insurance because it's good for their health.

“I think getting – giving people as much opportunity to get coverage and if we can extend the open enrollment period and make sure that we can continue to move forward with implementation – that’s the goal,” Wasserman Schultz said.

Todd dropped the issue after repeated attempts to pry a concrete answer out of the DNC leader.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., called for an extension in the open enrollment period Tuesday and asked President Obama if Americans would still face a penalty for not purchasing insurance by March 31, 2014.

The problem stems from the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance or face a fine. The individual mandate effectively begins on January 1, 2014, but allows for a three-month grace period for people who switch jobs or are between insurance plans.

That means that people would need to have health insurance by March 31, 2014 in order to avoid the penalty. But most insurance options kick in on the 1st of the month, meaning people would actually need to be enrolled by March 1. And to be enrolled by March 1, people need to purchase a health care plan by February 15, since it takes about 2 weeks to process.

So if the website isn’t fully functional prior to February 15, Americans could be penalized for not buying a product from a website that doesn’t work.

Todd also asked Wasserman Schultz about the briefing by the Department of Health and Human Services that congressional Democrats were invited to but not Republicans.

“I’m not aware that congressional Republicans aren’t getting an update,” Wasserman Schultz said. “I mean, perhaps they’ve chosen not to have an update.”

Not true, says Bruce Harvie, communications director for Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, who is the vice chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's health subcommittee.

“We definitely have not gotten any offers and not refused any offers to be briefed,” Harvie said.

The energy and commerce committee was briefed several previous times about Obamacare, but did not receive an invitation to the latest briefing, Harvie said. There has been no Republican conference refusal.

Wasserman Schultz did not respond to a request for comment.

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