Healthcare Business News

IRS form release shows employer mandate moving forward despite objections

By Virgil Dickson
Posted: July 25, 2014 - 4:30 pm ET

The IRS late Thursday released drafts of the forms that employers will have to file to show compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requirement that they provide health insurance to workers.

The employer mandate has been politically controversial. So the form's release sparked criticism because it demonstrates the administration is moving ahead despite objections.

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“It's disappointing that President Obama is ignoring bipartisan opposition and pushing ahead with his employer mandate even though it will lead to fewer jobs and lower wages for the American people,” Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said via e-mail, for example.

The mandate requires that employers with 50 or more full-time workers offer employees health insurance. The deadline for compliance has been delayed to the start of 2016 for those with 50-99 employees. Companies with 100 or more full-time equivalent employees must offer coverage to at least 70% by 2015 and at least 95% by 2016.

The IRS' release of the employer mandate documents comes as lawmakers have been aggressively pushing for a delay of the mandate for businesses that offer services through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to give the CMS and states the time to come up with rates that better incorporate the costs of complying with the directive.

“One of the hardest hit communities will be workers who provide services to Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries,” Daines said.

Earlier this month, he introduced the Ensuring Medicare and Medicaid Access to Providers Act, which would exempt companies that receive 60% or more of their revenue from Medicare and Medicaid from the Affordable Care Act employer health insurance mandate until Jan. 1, 2016.

Proceeding this action, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) had sent a letter to HHS (PDF) pushing the agency to come up for a solution for companies largely dependent on Medicaid income.

So far, the CMS has remained silent in response to worries of such healthcare providers, said William Dombi, vice president of Law at the National Association for Home Care & Hospice.

“We've asked the CMS to take a more active role,” Dombi said. “CMS has the ability to generate guidance on this for the states.”

In the absence of any sign of relief from the Obama administration, providers warn that patient care could suffer.

The IRS on Thursday also released draft forms related to the individual mandate. Critics quickly surfaced here as well, deriding the forms for their complexity and for allowing taxpayers to self-attest they have insurance coverage.

“We are dealing with an overall new level of complexity for moderate- and low-income filers,” said Mark Ciaramitaro, vice president of healthcare at H&R Block. “There is room for all kinds of mistakes.”

Regarding self-attesting that they have coverage, “How would they know?” asked George Brandes, vice president of healthcare programs at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service. “Certainly they aren't going to able to audit every return.”

Follow Virgil Dickson on Twitter: @MHvdickson

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