Just when you thought it was all done, an amendment to the Senate’s tax reform bill repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. Democrats are already setting up defenses. In case you don’t remember, the mandate is the part of the law that requires all of us to have health insurance. If not provided by an employer, you must — somehow — get said insurance or pay a fine.
We’ll keep you posted.
Here’s an oddity considering that President Trump wants ObamaCare to implode. Trump runs the people in his administration — the U.S. Treasury Secretary — who runs those in that department administering the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The oddity brings us back to the individual mandate’s cousin the employer.
The IRS — finally — is starting to enforce that rule. Soon letters will be arriving to — by current estimates — thousands of businesses with at least 100 full-time employees. The IRS will say penalties are owed for not offering their employees health insurance that meets ObamaCare’s guidelines.
If you’ve forgotten the rule points out that companies with 50 or more workers have to offer affordable health insurance. Stiff penalties follow those that don’t. The IRS put off enforcing the rule while those companies built compliance systems.
Whatever compliance systems are.
Apparently — according to the New York Times — the compliance system building time out has expired. “As the IRS has publicly stated, the agency is obligated to enforce the Affordable Care Act’s employer shared responsibility provision,” IRS spokesman Bruce Friedland said.
What’s odd about the enforcement goes back to President Trump. His first executive order ordered all government agencies to waive, defer or delay enforcing the Affordable Care Act’s rules. The problem with the order is that it does not change the law. The U.S. Treasury said it has to enforce the letter of the law even if the now head of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, other agency heads and the president object.
In a statement Mnuchin’s department said, “Treasury lawyers see no ground for the secretary to direct the IRS not to collect the tax. The ACA’s employer mandate unfortunately remains the law of the land.”
Speaking of the Affordable Care Act. Since Tom Price stepped down for using taxpayer dollars for private flights, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been leaderless.
The president just nominated the next HHS czar and he’s Alex Azar.
Or at least he tweeted that Azar is next up. “Happy to announce, I am nominating Alex Azar to be the next HHS Secretary. He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!” Trump tweeted.
He worked in the key role of Deputy Secretary in the HHS under President George W. Bush. In January Azar left Eli Lilly where he headed the pharmaceutical firm’s Lilly USA for a decade. Conservatives love the appointment. Democrats — as expected — not so much.
Bush’s HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said Azar is a great choice. “He understands the process and he knows the levers and how you make it work and where the potential roadblocks are. I think he would be of particular value given the fact that ... so far a repeal bill has not occurred and they’re going to need to make their imprint on existing laws through replacing the ideology underpinning it,” Leavitt said.
The two committees that oversee the HHS are the Senate Health Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Two PIA Western Alliance state senators serve on those committees. Sen Ron Wyden of Oregon is on the finance committee and Sen. Patty Murray is with the health committee.
Both are the ranking members on those committees.
Wyden said he will “closely scrutinize Mr. Azar’s record and ask for his commitment to faithfully implement the Affordable Care Act and take decisive, meaningful action to curtail the runaway train of prescription drug costs.”
Murray hopes Azar will support the bipartisan bill that she and the committee chair Sen. Lamar Alexander crafted to fix the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers to keep ObamaCare afloat.
“I will seek to understand whether he is willing to stand up to President Trump and his Administration to ensure the needs of all patients and families are put first, whether science or ideology will drive his decision-making, and whether he plans to continue the Administration’s ongoing and unprecedented attack on women’s constitutionally protected health care rights,” Murray said.
Source links: Insurance Business America, The Hill