I think it is now clear why the Administration could not delay the exchanges, even when Republicans essentially cast them a lifeline during the budget debate by trying to delay the mandate by a year: I think the Administration knew that a massive wave of insurance policy cancellations were already in the mail, and that the recipients of these letters would be facing huge price increases for their policies.
It is telling that the one thing you are NOT hearing from Administration officials in response to the policy cancellations is surprise. If they were surprised, they would be yelling stuff like, "what the hell are those insurance companies doing?" They knew this was coming, and you get the sense they were grimly bracing for it to be made public, hoping that perhaps their friends in the media would not make a big deal about it.
The minimum requirements on health plans that is driving these cancellations cannot at this point be cancelled. Or, put more precisely, they could be cancelled but the act would be meaningless, because insurance companies have no way to suddenly go back to the old policies and pricing. It takes too much planning to work out their product line and they can't just switch back on a dime.
So the huge wave of cancellations and price increases in the individual market was unstoppable. That being said, the Administration has to be able to offer an alternative, and the only one they have is the hope one might get his or her new policy subsidized by other taxpayers. But that is only possible through the exchanges. So that had to be allowed to go forward and made to work, somehow.
There is no fix to this mess. This is an avalanche that was loosed three years ago and cannot be stopped.