By Charles S. Clark
September 6, 2013
A key Treasury Department official joined with the Internal Revenue Service on Thursday to announce a proposed new rule aimed at “simplifying and streamlining” the Affordable Care Act reporting demands on large employers.
The proposal -- released but not yet published in the Federal Register -- was presented as part of an “ongoing dialog” with insurers and companies. Implementation of the reporting requirements for employers with 50 or more workers was postponed in July.
The draft rule comes as the Health and Human Services Department is preparing an advertising campaign for as much as $12 million to promote the controversial health care law. States are preparing to open enrollment for their insurance exchanges on Oct. 1; meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are still trying to defund or repeal the landmark law.
“Today’s proposed rules enable us to continue engaging on how best to implement the ACA reporting requirements in a more streamlined and focused manner,” said Assistant Treasury Secretary for Tax Policy Mark Mazur, in a news release. “We will continue to consider ways, consistent with the law, to simplify the new information reporting process and bring about a smooth implementation of those new rules. Doing so will help ensure that the ACA effectively and efficiently delivers its historic tax benefits that promote health security for all Americans.”
Proposed changes include giving insurers and self-insuring employers new options such as allowing use of W-2 forms to report on coverage provided to employees, spouses and dependents; eliminating the need to determine whether particular employees are full-time if adequate coverage is offered to all potentially full-time employees; and allowing employers to report the specific cost to an employee of purchasing employer-sponsored coverage only if the cost is above a specified dollar sum.
The Obama administration’s decision to postpone for a year implementation of the so-called employer mandate was seized on by Republican critics as a sign that the law is bound to fail.
On Thursday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., zeroed in on another provision of the law that is meeting resistance -- tax subsidies for multi-employer health plans such as those currently enjoyed by many unions. Anticipating new regulations under preparation “to appease union critics of the health care law,” Camp joined with Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., in asking the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Taxation Committee for a fresh analysis of the cost to the government of providing premium tax credits to individuals participating in multi-employer health insurance plans. Camp said a Congressional Research Service report argues that individuals enrolled in one of the nation’s estimated 1,800 multi-employer plans are eligible for the health care law’s premium tax credit.
Several unions have pressured the Obama administration to clarify the law’s implications for protecting their existing health benefits.
“In the more than three years since signing Obamacare into law, President Obama has unilaterally granted waivers, special deals and delays to unions and other politically-favored friends,” Camp said in a release. “This special treatment is unfair to the American families and individuals who are burdened with higher health costs and losing the insurance they have and like as a result of this law.”
Added Kline, “Any regulatory scheme that extends taxpayer subsidies to union health plans would blatantly contradict the president’s health care law. Union leaders supported the government takeover of health care, and if they want to protect workers from its destructive consequences they should work with Congress to repeal the law.”
(Image via ricardoreitmeyer/Shutterstock.com)
By Charles S. Clark
September 6, 2013