(Definition) Tipping point - The point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change (dictionary.com)

Have changes by the Obama administration in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) finally reached a point where the law will collapse under its own weight?

Yesterday it was learned a new exemption had been added to the list of reasons why someone who once had health insurance would not be fined if they did not secure a new plan either through a private company or on the government health exchange. For those people, rather than paying a fine of at least $95 and up to one percent of their income for not having insurance, all they need to do now is simply report they “experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance.”

The problem with this exemption is it is so broadly worded the definition is nearly limitless. People who claim they could not access the Obamacare website would qualify. As would those who said a policy was too expensive, they could not find coverage they liked, or any of a number of other reasons. Even if they could not report a legitimate reason for being unable to secure health insurance, it really does not matter since there does not appear to be a mechanism in place to investigate the excuse, mirroring the statement by the administration the IRS would not be verifying income levels on tax returns for the government subsidies.

This is now the fourteenth exemption allowed by the government for not securing an insurance policy. Other reasons included people dealing with bankruptcies, financial emergencies, or homelessness.

So now the signature legislation for the Obama administration may have been undercut by that same administration because of the crushing ineptitude of implementation. In addition to more than two dozen delays and changes to the law, they have dropped the essential benefits plan definition, delayed the insurance mandate on mid-size companies, axed the annual and lifetime caps on payments for pre-existing conditions, and extended “substandard” plans for two more years (even though some states’ insurance regulators have said that violates state laws).

The most astonishing part of this exemption is it negates the shared responsibility tax. This was called the “linchpin” to the Obama administration’s argument at the Supreme Court, the deciding factor that swayed the Justices to declare the individual mandate constitutional. And now it is gone.

While the delays for more than half of the ACA’s mandates have put off the worst of the pain for Americans, this exemption may prove to be the first step in a final, disastrous slide. Older, sicker Americans who moved to the plans were to be paid for in part by millions of healthy, young insured people. Instead, this group has stayed away from the plans and now insurance companies will need to raise the rates on the older people. Also, with only 17 days left until the end of the sign-up period, only ten percent of uninsured Americans - the very people the law was written to help - have signed up for plans. Even that reported figure may be high since the administration has declined to release the numbers of those who have signed up and paid their premiums.

We take no pleasure in watching this train wreck. There are millions of people who legitimately need help with health insurance and the complete disruption of one-sixth of the nation’s economy could continue our economic upheaval for another two years. But if this was a tipping point, then at least we can hope that it will - eventually - get better from here.