July 17, 2013

House Republicans vote to delay health care law 


The votes are a chance to score political points, but the legislation won't get past the Democratic-controlled Senate.

By Donna Cassata / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Lindsey Tucker, deputy commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, speaks to a group to explain Vermont's health care exchange program in Newport, Vt. The state is setting up the new exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

2013 Associated Press File Photo

"Let's provide the same relief to American families that Obama's promised to big business," said Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind.

Republicans also read aloud the complaints of union leaders about the unintended consequences of the law on workers' hours, with companies scaling back work time to avoid providing health coverage. They gleefully cited labor's statement that it voted for Democrats and expected them to address the problem.

The unions – International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and UNITE-HERE – wrote to Democratic leaders last week that the law's requirements have created an incentive for employers to limit workers' hours.

The law created a new definition of full-time workers, those putting in 30 hours or more.

"Time is running out: Congress wrote this law; we voted for you. We have a problem; you need to fix it. The unintended consequences of the ACA (Affordable Care Act) are severe. Perverse incentives are already creating nightmare scenarios," the union leaders wrote.

House Democrats argued that the criticisms ignore the immediate advantages of the law, millions of young people who are able to remain on their parents' health care until age 26, preventives services and the millions of Americans who will have access to affordable care.

After each Republican spoke during House debate, Democrats described the specific benefits of the law in the GOP lawmaker's district.

Under the health law, companies with 50 or more workers must provide affordable coverage to their full-time employees or risk a series of escalating tax penalties if just one worker ends up getting government-subsidized insurance. Originally, that requirement was supposed to take effect Jan. 1. It will now be delayed to 2015.

The administration said businesses had raised concerns about the complexity of the requirements and pressed for more time for implementation. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 95 percent of employers with 50 or more workers already offer health benefits.

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, senior administration officials defended the law and the delay.

Treasury Department health policy adviser Mark Iwry told the Ways and Means Committee that the administration's one-year delay of the requirement for larger employers to offer coverage was in keeping with the agency's longstanding legal authority to smooth the implementation of complicated new tax laws.

"On a number of prior occasions across administrations, this authority has been used to postpone the application of new legislation when immediate application would have subjected taxpayers to unreasonable administrative burdens or costs," Iwry said.

He cited a number of previous examples, from small business legislation to a tax on aviation fuel.

The inspector general's office that monitors the Internal Revenue Service warned of possible problems for consumers submitting applications for health insurance in October.

Testifying before the House Oversight committee, Alan Duncan of the Treasury's Inspector General office said the rush to be ready for open enrollment Oct. 1 may leave some technology not fully tested.

"The lack of adequate testing could result in significant delays and errors in accepting and processing ... applications for health insurance coverage," Duncan testified.

Administration officials said they are highly confident of a successful launch.

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