The Obama administration plans to delay enforcement of yet another Obamacare provision, according to a New York Times report.
This line in the law would ban employers from discriminating “in favor of highly compensated individuals” when it comes to health insurance eligibility or benefits. Effectively, the provision prevents employers from providing their top executives cushy health benefits while low-level employees are given less optimal health insurance options.
The IRS will not enforce the provision in 2014 because they simply haven’t yet gotten around to actually writing the regulations that employers must follow, even though the Affordable Care Act was signed into law almost four years ago.
Obamacare originally required the IRS to enforce the health benefit “discrimination” ban just six months after the law was passed in March 2010. The Obama administration announced in 2010 that officials needed more time to write the rules, but assured Americans that the regulations would be finalized before Obamacare actually launched.
Years later, the IRS appears to still be grappling with the same questions about implementing the provision. IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge denied in a statement that the agency had approved any new delay.
“The IRS has not announced any new or additional information on this issue,” Eldridge said. “The New York Times story refers to IRS Notice 2011-1, which was released to the press on December 22, 2010. That Notice stated that under Public Health Service Act, Section 2716 will not apply until after generally applicable guidance is issued, because the statute requires regulatory detail in order to operate properly.”
IRS officials appear to be stymied by the “regulatory detail” of the provision. For the IRS to mandate non-discrimination in health plans for employees with different compensations, the agency must decide how to quantify the value of employer-provided health benefits, how to define “highly compensated officials” and issue a final determination on what constitutes discrimination.
The tax agency has a series of scenarios made complicated by Obamacare’s structure that it will have to take into consideration before issuing guidance. Some low-earning employees may opt out of employer-sponsored health insurance in favor of increased subsidies via an Obamacare exchange, for example, while higher executives that aren’t privy to taxpayer subsidies for coverage do not. The IRS has yet to determine whether that employer would be discriminating even if the employer health plan has the same value for all employees.
Obamacare’s prescription for violating the ban is a $100 daily excise tax for each individual that was “discriminated” against.
The ongoing delay is just the latest in an increasingly frequent series of administration decisions to put off parts of the health care law.