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Health care law faces new challenges in Congresscomment (0)

August 8, 2013

By Sondra Washington and Jennifer Davis Rash


Health care law faces new challenges in Congress

Although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law in 2010, it is still heavily opposed by those who would like to change various aspects of it. 

On Aug. 2 the U.S. House of Representatives voted 232–185 to block the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from enforcing more than 40 provisions of the law including the law’s individual mandate, according to C-SPAN. As the 40th attempt to repeal some portion of the law being called Obamacare, this bill (H.R. 2009) proves that Americans may see additional challenges to the health care law in the future as more portions of the law are implemented.

According to www.politico.com, the passing of the bill called “Keep the IRS off Your Health Care Act of 2013” is a “win-win-win” for Republicans who oppose the current health care reform “linking taxes, the IRS and the unpopular Obamacare.” Its purpose is to “bar the IRS from any role in carrying out the law or in collecting taxes to help pay for it,” the news site states. 

During the debate, Rep. Dave Camp, R-Michigan, said, “The IRS is already out of control abusing its power to tax and audit the activities of honest, hard-working Americans. The IRS has betrayed the trust of the American people, yet Obamacare granted the IRS 47 new powers including giving confidential taxpayer information to other departments and applying new taxes and penalties.”

In opposition Rep. Sander Levin, D-Michigan, said, “This bill before us is nothing more than a continuation of Republicans’ blind obsession with repealing the Affordable Care Act. … It is so clear. The Republican mission is to destroy … not implement health care reform, and rather than help leading on the issue, House Republicans have spent the last two-plus years trying to mislead Americans about health care rights under ACA and now we can expect more misinformation.”

Although the bill passed the House, Politico reported, “Like most of the other 39 House votes against Obamacare, it’s largely symbolic as it won’t make it through the Senate.”

And while lawmakers continue to debate, Americans should educate themselves on the new law and prepare themselves for decisions they will have to make.

Health care reform experts across the board urge individuals to do the proper research required to understand how the new law will impact them. They all agree it is confusing and is continually changing, but taking it one piece at a time makes it more manageable.

With October being the next major milestone with the opening of the Marketplace for enrollment in health coverage plans, individuals who are employed need to know if they are going to have to shop for insurance or if it will be provided by employers. Asking employers what their plans are is a good place to start, the experts noted.

Gene Ramsay, president of the Birmingham Association of Health Underwriters, warns small businesses of automatically rushing to the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), however. 

In a special column written for the Birmingham Business Journal (BBJ, www.bizjournals.com), Ramsay said, “Small business owners can get a federal exchange plan for their company and pay all or part of the cost for their employees. That seems like a great plan and might work in some cases.

“What those business owners need to realize is that once they start that plan, none of their employees can quality for an individual subsidy or tax credit to get individual coverage even if they would qualify based on income,” he wrote. “The business owner must be cautious to evaluate what will be best for all of their people before they enter the SHOP thinking they are helping their people.”

For individuals planning to shop in the Marketplace, Ramsay suggested carefully comparing the options. 

 

“Not all carriers are created equal in the eyes of the doctor you might present your new shiny insurance card to,” he said. “If a doctor doesn’t accept a certain insurance card now, they don’t have to change that rule — even if you get your coverage through the exchange.”

Ramsay also noted in the BBJ article that qualifying for a subsidy or tax credit for health insurance does not mean a check will arrive in the mail.

“When someone finds the coverage they want, that credit will go toward that yearly purchase for health insurance, and they will be responsible for the difference in cost,” he said. “No monthly or lump check will arrive. People are buying through the exchange, so that is all handled at the point of sale.”

Shane Spees, president and chief executive officer of Birmingham’s Baptist Health System, also noted that tax credits are only available if an individual purchases health insurance through the Marketplace. The credits also are only available if the individual is not provided affordable health coverage.

“If your employer provides affordable coverage, then you have to take it,” he said.

But with that comes the verification process, Spees noted. 

“Part of the debate now is how to verify if an employer [is providing] an affordable plan. The verification process is up in the air, which complicates the individual mandate,” he said. “The position the federal government has taken so far is working on the honor system.

“My best guess is that they will have to delay the individual mandate as well ... because it is so interrelated to the employer mandate,” Spees said. The employer mandate was delayed until 2015.

For more information on the employer mandate, visit www.thealabamabaptist.org.

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