Tuesday Tidbits

Here are the final Tuesday tidbits of 2015 — 

  • Yesterday the IRS miraculously extended for two months the deadlines for furnishing and filing the forms that document compliance with the Affordable Care Act’s individual and employer shared responsibility mandates.  The Affordable Care Act requires health plans and insurers to report on coverage for their members/insureds and large employers to report on whether or not they offered their full time employees minimum essential coverage.  The Internal Revenue Service will use this information to enforce the ACA’s individual and employer shared responsibility mandates.  The delay does not affect the ability of taxpayers to file their 2015 tax returns.  Indeed the individual shared responsibility mandate was in effect for 2014 but the IRS delayed the associated reporting requirement until this year. So everyone successfully filed their 2014 tax returns without these reports known as the Form 1095-B. 
  • The Wall Street Journal reported today that beginning with the new year the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services can fine insurers for defective provider directories.  For the life of the FEHBlog, he cannot understand why CMS cannot simply direct doctors to identify for their patients the networks to which they belong.  Why do all of the burdens have to be placed on the insurance companies? What happened to two way streets? 
  • Another burr in the FEHBlog’s saddle is the fact that taxpayers spent $30 BILLION dollars on electronic medical record systems that don’t communicate with other health systems and insurers, even though the last Administration was advocating interoperability.  Better late than never, the HHS electronic health records czar last week “released its 2016 Interoperability Standards Advisory, providing the healthcare industry with a list of what ONC calls the “best available” standards and implementation specifications to fulfill specific clinical health IT interoperability needs,” according to Health Data Management.  
  • Finally, Modern Healthcare reports

ACA critic Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office who now heads the conservative American Action Forum, said the healthcare reform law is “riddled with some of the worst tax policy I’ve ever seen.” In his view, the projections of how much revenue its tax provisions would raise never added up.  

Still, he said Congress’ bipartisan move to freeze the three ACA taxes—with the likelihood that they never will be restored—is a blow to the law, said Holtz-Eakin, who advised Sen. John McCain on healthcare policy during McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.  

He said the Cadillac tax was intended to push employers to pare back on gold-plated health benefit plans. The Obama administration and congressional Democrats designed it in a way that differentiated the tax from McCain’s proposal to cap the tax exclusion for employer plans, which candidate Barack Obama had sharply criticized. Now, Congress should again consider capping the tax exclusion, which could receive bipartisan support, Holtz-Eakin said.

Here’s hoping. As the FEHBlog has pointed out, small business people already have a capped exclusion and people purchasing individual coverage have no exclusion (but may have tax credits).