Tuesday Tidbits

These are not exactly tidbits, but I like the title.

In an unexpected denouement, discretion being the better part of valor, the House of Representative just voted to suspend the federal debt ceiling until March 15, 2015, according to the Hill.  The Senate is expected to approve the measure tomorrow, and the threat of a government shutdown vanishes for a year or so.

The FEHBlog nearly fell off his chair yesterday when the Internal Revenue Service announced a further delay of the employer shared responsibility mandate. The employer shared responsibility / pay or play mandate is the part of the Affordable Care Act that applies to employers with 50 or more full time employees. Full time for purposes of this law is considered to average 30 rather than 37.5 or 40 hours per week.  Such a large employer’s failure to offer minimum essential coverage to at least 95% of its full time employees would subject the employer to a $2,000 per employee (over the first thirty) penalty. (Of course as with all things ACA there are more penalties but let’s just stick with this one.)  On July 3, 2013, the IRS delayed the effective date for this mandate from January 1, 2014, to January 1, 2015

The FEHBlog had expected OPM to lead the way by expanding FEHBP coverage to federal and postal employees who work on average more than 30 hours per week but are not eligible for contributory FEHBP coverage for 2014, notwithstanding the delay. OPM evidently did not have the resources for this initiative as it was engaged in expanding the FEHBP to Indian tribal employers and adding multi-state plans to the health insurance exchanges. But the FEHBlog notes that OPM has undertaken efforts to so expand the FEHBP for 2015.

Now the IRS has said that employer with 100 or more full time employees do not have to comply with the full employer shared responsibility mandate until 2016 if they cover 70% of their full time workforce in 2015 (and then 95% in 2016).  This mandate is hideously complicated by considerations of temporary and seasonal employees, etc. The bottom line here is that the IRS has allowed OPM a grace period of another year. We will have to wait and see whether or not OPM accepts the offer.

The IRS also extended another year’s grace period to all employers with 50 more but less than 100 employees. Here is a link to the IRS’s Qs & As on the final employer shared mandate rule and here’s a link to the 227 page rule if like the FEHBlog you are a glutton for punishment.