Lawmakers Seek Answers From IRS, Treasury on Implementation of ACA
On Tuesday, the Republican leaders of two influential House committeesÂ sent a letterÂ to the Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service renewing their threatÂ to issue subpoenas if the IRS does not release unredacted records about how they are implementing the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges and insurance subsidies,Â The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
According to "Healthwatch," some Republicans believe IRS exceeded its legal authority by establishing a rule under the ACA that permits subsidies to be available through state and federally run insurance exchanges (Baker, "Healthwatch,"Â The Hill, 1/29).
The ACA states that the subsidies will be provided to help residents to purchase health policies offered "through an exchange established by the state." However, a rule issued by the Obama administration in May 2012 permits the subsidies to be used in an exchange administered either by a state or the federal government.
The rule did not clarify whether residents in states that fail or decline to establish the exchanges on their own would be eligible to receive the subsidies. Several Republicans expressed concern about the rule and sponsored legislationÂ in the last Congress to invalidate the rule (California Healthline, 10/25/12).
In their letter, the GOP leaders -- House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (Mich.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Darrell Issa (Calif.) -- wrote that the Treasury has refused to cooperate and provide their committees' staff with access to the requested documents, adding that they only have been able to obtain records that have excessive redactions ("Healthwatch,"Â The Hill, 1/29).
The lawmakers threatened to issue a subpoena if their request for the unredacted documents is not met Feb. 5,Â CQ Roll CallÂ reports.
Legislation To Invalidate Rule Poised for Return
In related news, Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) -- a cosponsor of the measure to invalidate the subsidies rule -- announced this week that he plans to reintroduce the bill within two weeks.
DesJarlais said, "The language matters when a bill or any contract is written, and in this case it looks clearly that the IRS circumvented Congress and rewrote the rules to apply to the federal exchanges in a fashion that was not in the original text."
The subsidies also are a key element of a lawsuit that Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) filedÂ in federal court last year.
Although DesJarlais appeared to acknowledge that his measure has little chance of passing in the Democrat-controlled Senate, he said there is a "great possibility" that the matter could be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court. He said that if the House passed the measure, it would force the high court to "take a harder look" at the rule and "the seriousness of the breach of constitutional rule and what the IRS did in circumventing Congress" (Attias,Â CQ Roll Call, 1/29).ÂThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.