GOP Hits White House on 'Obamacare' Mandate Exemption Delay

Kathleen Sebelius says those with cancelled health care plans need not comply with 'Obamacare' mandate.
3:00 | 12/20/13

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Transcript for GOP Hits White House on 'Obamacare' Mandate Exemption Delay
This is a special -- I'm neighbors in new York and this isn't ABC news digital special report. With just a few days until the first deadline to enroll. The White House has announced that people who had their insurance plans canceled this year because they didn't meet those obamacare standards. We'll -- rarely be exempted from Obama -- individual mandate. With more on this latest week we're joined now from Washington by ABC's Devin Dwyer. DeVon good afternoon so for months the White House -- said it was confident that everyone who wanted covered by January 1 would be able to get it. So why now this sudden change of heart to offer some of these people -- coverage option. However that's right -- that deadline you mentioned as quickly approaching on Monday. December 23 by 11:59. PM anyone who wants to buy your role in health insurance coverage that takes effective January 1. Has to sign up that's the big. Still haven't found -- plans to their kind of hanging out there. And at risk of a potential coverage gaps it. Last night there. Health and human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. They are going to basically grant an exemption for anyone with -- canceled planned from the individual mandate but more importantly. That exemption allows them to -- role in something called catastrophic coverage the cheap bare bones plan that anybody. I can enroll -- just kind of get by. You need an exemption if you're over thirty to qualify for that catastrophic plan -- last night they said canceled plans essentially. Is enough of a hardship to meet that exemption. And haven't what big numbers we should be looking at now we know they've been sort of smoothing out some of these online glitches with the site. -- -- become easier at all for people to sign up. Well sure has -- mean you can't dispute that the website is working much better than it was in early October. A number of states that we've been in touch with over the past few days have been reporting a surge. In sign ups through their own market places some increases just in December 3040%. So. People could be more progress is being made the big number to watch -- think at the end of December -- we come up on this deadline. Is the one point nine million people so far in the federal and state systems who have started applications. Who got into the process to move all the way through the process despite the glitches. But he just not yet picked -- plants there's a pretty big universe of people. Who went through a lot of trouble to get in the system. But haven't yet selected that plan number reasons for that either they have made up their minds there's technical problems. The White House. Is really hoping to move most of those one point nine -- million people. Into some plan here in the next three days. Now we know the Affordable Care Act of course has this delicate economic structure how does this change that they are announcing today -- fact that balance and how insurers responded to the announcement. What -- companies were quite critical of this change that essentially. Gives people an out people with canceled plans those 500 -- thousand or so that have depicted. Pick new health insurance it gives them an out to potentially go without health insurance next year. Insurance companies saying that complicates their premium models for Tony fourteen they had been counting on individual mandate. To get as many people as possible signed up a White House official told -- just a few minutes ago that they. Don't buy that that argument at all they say basically based on the Massachusetts example. That very few people will continue to go without health insurance when so many options are available including as -- just a few minutes ago that -- Catastrophic coverage options -- -- -- is not a Republican engineered tweaks so who among the Capitol Hill Democrats was pushing hardest for that. It's interesting to write to how this came about it was actually spurred by a number of Democrats senate Democrats five Democrats one independent. Wrote to Kathleen Sebelius in a letter earlier this week saying their constituents are frustrated people with canceled plans. Continue to be thwarted through the web site or simply dissatisfied. By being unable to find a plan that suits their needs something affordable. And so they very kind of politely graciously asked her to come up with some sort of solution for that she responded last night. And said that this option is available and that they were going to move forward to make this available so it is interest in that this case could serve him about. From the democratic side. Now of course on the other side Republicans we have long fought against individual mandate I imagine they see this latest move is yet another failure of obamacare how how are they spinning it this morning. That's right well they're certainly spending at the Republican National Committee -- speaker John Boehner. Saying that this latest shift this latest delay this latest sort of qualification if you will of the mandate in the provision of Affordable Care Act. Underscores their case that that it's not ready for prime time and that all these kind of loopholes if you'll need to be made. Again the White House pushing back pretty strongly about that at the end of the day they say and I think they. Make a pretty fair point this is about signing up people for health insurance and -- today that exemption that's being made simply allows people puts them in -- class. To qualify for this very low end plan is something of a fail safe. But certainly Republicans having a heyday with the change. ABC's Devin -- thank you so much for joining us a full report on this latest -- to obamacare right here at This has been an ABC news digital special report. I'm Mary -- in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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