Saturday, February 21, 2015

Obamacare Schadenfreude Waiting for the Warmth

How about a little more Obamacare Schadenfreude as we wait for the weather to arrive?  Today our "cold-snap" is supposed to be interrupted by a storm that will bring snow, and then snush (some form of frozen precipitation other than snow) and finally warming up to a cold rain. According to weather radar it should be snowing, but it ain't yet showing. Oh goody!

HHS Messed Up 800,000 Obamacare Tax Forms
About 800,000 people received tax forms with incorrect information about their Obamacare coverage, officials from the Health and Human Services Department said Friday.

The errors occurred on a new form that helps Obamacare enrollees figure out whether they qualify for a subsidy that would pay all or part of their premiums, and how big that subsidy should be. Information used to calculate those subsidies was wrong on about 20 percent of tax forms, HHS officials said. The errors would cause some taxpayers to claim too large a subsidy and others to claim less than they’re actually eligible for.

Andy Slavitt, principal deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the agency is already notifying taxpayers of the mistake and will be sending out revised forms. The “vast majority” of Obamacare enrollees haven’t filed their taxes yet, and can simply use the new, corrected information when they do, Slavitt said. But, of the 800,000 people who received inaccurate forms, about 50,000 have already filed their taxes, Slavitt said.

The IRS is figuring out how to handle those returns. Obamacare’s subsidies are tied to the cost of “benchmark” plan in each region. But these 800,000 tax forms list the wrong premium for those plans. Slavitt said HHS is still investigating how the error occurred.
This is what happens when you write a positively Byzantine law, invent regulations to implement it that ignore the way the law was written, and enforced at the whim of the executive. Why would you expect all the gears to mesh?

But there's always another good excuse for a delay in enforcement
In the latest in a long string of delays in enforcing the rules under the health care overhaul, the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department announced on Wednesday that they will wait until summer to start enforcing financial penalties on small businesses that provide so-called Health Reimbursement Arrangements to their employees.

Under HRAs, employers provide spending accounts that their workers can use to cover a portion of the cost of buying individual health plans. The arrangements, which give employers a tax-free means to help pay for their workers’ health costs, do not comply with insurance standards in the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, according to Treasury guidance issued in the fall of 2013. Consequently, employers who elect to continue offering HRAs could be fined as much as $100 per day per employee.

In a public notice, IRS and Treasury officials announced that those penalties (in the form of excise taxes) will not be levied against noncompliant small businesses until July, giving many employers a little extra time to adjust to the new rules.

“The Departments understand that some employers that had been offering health coverage through an employer payment plan may need additional time to obtain group health coverage or adopt a suitable alternative,” the notice reads. Officials also hinted at the fact that the new online health insurance exchanges set up under the law, which were meant to give small businesses more choices and more affordable health insurance options, haven’t quite delivered.
Fired Director of Minnesota exchange happy to help, for a price:
MNsure’s former executive director, April Todd-Malmlov, resigned under pressure — not just because the website melted down, but because, for part of it, she was on a week-long vacation in the Caribbean.
James Nobles, the state’s legislative auditor, spent a year figuring out what went wrong, and he says Todd-Malmlov refused to cooperate.
“She would participate and respond if we paid her,” Nobles said.
Audit documents obtained by WCCO-TV show the auditor tried for months to interview Todd-Malmlov, finally issuing a subpoena to testify on Oct. 4.
Minnesota law does require the state to pick up expenses for non-government employees when cooperating with a probe, but that usually means travel and boarding expenses — not consultation fees and attorney costs. After making $136,000 a year in salary to deliver a complete failure — and then to take a paid vacation while her system floundered — one might think that Todd-Malmlov might have felt as though Minnesota taxpayers had been fleeced enough. Obviously not.

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