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November 7, 2013
Camp Asks IRS for Breakdown of ACA Premium Tax Credit Application Info
by Eric Kroh

Full Text Published by Tax Analysts®

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp, R-Mich., on November 6 asked the IRS to provide more information about applications the agency has received to determine eligibility for health insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act.

Camp wrote a letter to acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel asking the Service to turn over state-by-state data on the number of individuals who have applied for the credits through the federal and state health insurance exchanges who are eligible for credits, the number whose income is above and below the credit's eligibility threshold, and the average age of applicants.

"This information is vital to understanding the policy problems associated with the Affordable Care Act as well as to provide policymakers with the information necessary to take corrective action," Camp said.

The previous day, Werfel said in remarks before the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants that the agency had received some 1.3 million requests from state and federal marketplaces to determine eligibility for the credits, and had acted on about 300,000 of them.

The information from the IRS is some of the most concrete data released to date about how many Americans have tried to or have been able to sign up for health insurance plans from federal and state marketplaces since they opened October 1.

That information is not enough, however, to help policymakers assess the extent of the problems facing the healthcare system, Camp said. He asked the IRS to provide responses to his questions by November 12.

The section 36B health insurance premium tax credit is a refundable credit available beginning in 2014 to individuals and families who purchase coverage through an exchange and have incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

Ways and Means ranking minority member Sander M. Levin, D-Mich., criticized Camp for what Levin described as excessive partisanship in Camp's leadership of the committee.

"The selective release of IRS information during the tax-exempt organization investigation, the use of subpoena power in the manner you have undertaken this week, and the request made of the IRS today are clearly efforts to simply gather data to continue your assault on the Affordable Care Act," Levin wrote in a letter to Camp. "They are beneath the Ways and Means Committee."

Kathleen Sebelius, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, said before a November 6 hearing of the Senate Finance Committee that the Obama administration would provide more data the week of November 12 on how many people have been able to sign up for health insurance on the marketplaces since their troubled launch. Sebelius said that the administration would try to provide as much detail as possible about enrollment numbers, but said they are likely to be low.

The hearing largely steered clear of tax topics. Republicans on the panel continued to call for a delay in the law and its individual mandate penalty given the problems with the marketplace websites. Two Democrats on the committee said they, too, would be open to a delay in the mandate.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., the most senior Democrat on the committee next to Chair Max Baucus, D-Mont., said he did not support delaying the law unless problems with the website cannot be fixed in time, in which case "a penalty or something should be lifted." Panel member Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said there would be "no shame in pushing out a date based on technology." Other Democratic lawmakers have expressed support for a delay in the individual mandate penalty as well.

The section 5000A individual mandate takes effect in 2014. The penalty for not having insurance is calculated as the greater of either a flat dollar amount or a percentage of income exceeding a threshold.

HHS issued guidance October 28 clarifying that those who buy insurance on the exchanges before March 31, 2014, will not be subject to the individual mandate penalty.

Baucus reiterated his support for the ACA during the hearing, saying that many had seized on two words he had used in a previous hearing to describe his concerns with the law's implementation -- presumably "train wreck" -- and that his words had been "twisted and used to malign the Affordable Care Act itself."

During the hearing, Baucus did not call for a delay in the individual mandate penalty, which he has said might make sense if problems continue. He did, however, say that HHS should consider shutting down the government's health insurance website healthcare.gov until problems are fixed.

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