March 13 (Bloomberg) — Obamacare's requirement that all Americans carry insurance or face penalties, part of the effort to gain universal coverage, may not be much of a rule at all.

Millions of people may be exempt from the requirement known as the individual mandate under rules issued by the Obama administration. Homeless people or homeowners who've been foreclosed upon can apply for an exemption. So can those whose utilities have been shut off, who have suffered domestic violence or who have experienced a death in their families.

In December, the administration said people whose existing health plans had been canceled wouldn't have to comply with the mandate. Last week, the government said that exemption will be extended through 2016. In a catch-all category, anybody who believes they've had a "hardship in obtaining insurance" can apply for an exemption — documentation is optional.

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