'Once Again Moving the Goalposts': Regs Give Obamacare Reprieves to Medium, Large Employers

“President Obama by himself is rewriting Obamacare one more time instead of working with Congress to repeal the mandate. It’s time to start over and go step by step with reforms that reduce the cost of healthcare so more Americans can afford to buy insurance," said the top Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

The news came as Alexander and Barrasso, as well as Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), signed on to a letter from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to the IRS commissioner asking the agency to clarify how it intends to enforce the individual mandate.

"Under the law, the IRS does not have the authority to file a notice of federal tax lien or bring forth criminal prosecutions in order to enforce the tax payment," Coburn wrote to IRS chief John Koskinen. "Please describe the methods the IRS intends to use to enforce payment of the tax. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) states 'it is possible that the IRS could present its claim when property is being sold and collect both the original penalty amount along with accrued interest and applicable penalties.' Does the IRS plan to do this?"

"Does the IRS anticipate taking the tax from a person’s refund would be an effective method for ensuring compliance with the individual mandate tax?… Does the IRS intend to enforce the tax on individuals who have been unable to access the HealthCare.gov or state exchange websites? Will individuals who completed all the steps to purchase health insurance, but were not enrolled due to a website error be required to pay the tax?" the letter continues.

If a taxpayer qualifies for one of the multiple, confusing exemptions under the law yet unknowingly pays the tax, "will the IRS refund the payment? How will the IRS verify the information provided regarding a person’s enrollment in a qualified health plan is accurate? In addition, if a person has a gap in coverage that is less than three months, they are not required to comply with the individual mandate. How does the IRS intend to verify the coverage gap did not exceed the three-month threshold?"

The lawmakers ask whether the IRS even has the manpower and infrastructure in place to enforce the mandate this year. They asked Koskinen to report back with answers within 15 days.

"Democrats may try hiding from President Obama on the campaign trail, but when it comes to his signature accomplishment, Obamacare, each Democrat senator up for re-election this year helped make it a reality," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

One of those Senate Dems campaigning to keep his job this fall, Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), said the delay announced today came as a result of a letter he sent to Obama last summer asking for a 2-year postponement of the employer mandate penalties.

“As a small-business owner, I have repeatedly called for better protections for small businesses during the transition and implementation of the ACA,” Begich said. “Today’s announcement shows the Administration has heard my concerns. I want to make sure businesses have the time they need to make the transition to this new law without negative impacts to their bottom line or to their employees.  I am pleased the administration has heeded my request for these improvements.