clear
Tuesday July 28th, 2015 1:47PM

GOP lawmakers back Obamacare per-employee fee requirement

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans in Congress don't usually fight for tax increases, especially ones that are part of President Barack Obama's health care law.

But GOP senators balked when Democrats proposed delaying a new temporary fee on everyone covered by health insurance.

So employers, insurance companies and other health plan sponsors are in line to pay $63 a person next year for everyone who has coverage. The temporary fee covers all workers, spouses and dependents covered by health insurance.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., proposed delaying the fee in recent budget talks with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. McConnell and other Republican senators objected; the fee was left intact.

GOP senators complained the delay was basically a favor for labor unions, traditional Democratic allies that oppose the new fee.

"It's beyond ironic that the mantra from the president and the Democrats has been, `There can't be any changes to Obamacare. After all, it's the law of the land,'" said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. "And then big labor comes along and wants a change and, lo and behold, there's got to be a change."

But also opposing the fee are large employers, traditional Republican allies, even though in many cases the fee probably will be passed on to workers.

"It's a sizable expense. For some of my employers it's millions of dollars a year and we don't get anything from it," said Gretchen Young, senior vice president for health policy at the ERISA Industry Committee, a group that represents large employers on benefits issues. "It's definitely not solely a union issue."

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said the proposed delay was meant to balance Republican demands for other changes to the health law. Republicans in Congress have been attacking the law since it was passed in 2010, and earlier this month, they forced a partial government shutdown over Obama's refusal to negotiate changes.

Cardin said he didn't want any changes in the law to be part of the deal for reopening the government and extending the country's ability to borrow. In the end, the only change was an income verification procedure for people applying for tax credits to help them purchase health insurance.

The temporary fee on people with health insurance is designed to raise $25 billion over the next three years.

The money will provide a cushion for insurers from the initial hard-to-predict costs of covering previously uninsured people with medical problems. Under the law, insurers will be forbidden, effective Jan. 1, 2014, to turn away applicants who are ill.

Insurance companies hit by unexpectedly high costs for insuring people with medical conditions will be able to tap the fund, which will be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. The fund will mainly benefit companies participating in state-based health insurance exchanges.

The fee will total $12 billion in 2014, $8 billion in 2015 and $5 billion in 2016. That means the per-head assessment would be smaller each year, around $40 in 2015 instead of $63.

It is being assessed on all "major medical" insurance plans, including those provided by employers and those purchased individually by consumers. About 150 million workers, spouses and dependents are covered under employer-sponsored health plans.

Large employers will pay the fee directly. That's because major companies are usually self-insured, with the health insurance company that workers deal with basically acting as an agent administering the plan.

Unions that operate multi-employer health plans also will pay the fee. More than 20 million union workers and family members are covered by such plans.

These unions and large employers argue that they shouldn't have to pay the fee because they won't benefit from the fund.

The AFL-CIO passed a resolution at its convention this year calling for the fee to be repealed. Large employers are also fighting the fee. But, Young noted, the political atmosphere in Congress, especially when it comes to the health care law, will make it difficult to win any changes.

"The Affordable Care Act is now kind of a third rail," said Young, referring to the law's formal name. "If it wasn't before, it is even more so now."
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Amtrak to suspend some Crescent service in Jan., Feb.
Amtrak service will shut down in parts of the Southeast for several days in January and February for rail maintenance by Norfolk Southern Railway.
9:00AM ( 1 year ago )
Lung cancer scans urged for some smokers, not all
Certain current or former heavy smokers should start getting yearly scans for lung cancer to cut their risk of death from the nation's top cancer killer, government advisers said Monday - even as they stressed that the tests aren't for everyone.
7:26AM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Feeling US snub, Saudis strengthen ties elsewhere
Increasingly vocal in its frustration over U.S. policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.
4:34PM ( 1 year ago )
NSA reportedly intercepts computer deliveries
A German magazine has lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency's hacker unit, revealing how American spies intercepted computer deliveries, exploited hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijacked Microsoft's bug report system to spy on their targets.
12:31PM ( 1 year ago )
Rockets fired from Lebanon into Israel
Rockets from Lebanon struck northern Israel on Sunday, causing no injuries but sparking an Israeli reprisal shelling in a rare flare-up between the two countries.
12:26PM ( 1 year ago )
Politics
Strong home sales, limited supply lift US home prices in May
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices rose steadily in May, pushed higher by a healthy increase in sales this year.The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index climbed 4.9 percent in May f...
12:05PM ( 1 hour ago )
Correction: San Francisco-Soda Warning story
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — In a story July 26 about a lawsuit against San Francisco by the American Beverage Association, The Associated Press reported erroneously where the city's health warning labels wou...
10:30AM ( 3 hours ago )
UPS 2Q profit beats Street as overseas business improves
ATLANTA (AP) — Overseas business helped UPS during its second quarter, as did the absence of a hefty charge recorded a year ago.The package-delivery company earned $1.23 billion, or $1.35 per share, f...
9:06AM ( 4 hours ago )
Bobby Brown 'completely numb' after death of daughter
ATLANTA (AP) — R&B singer Bobby Brown said Monday that his daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, was "an angel" and that the family must find a way to honor her memory.Bobbi Kristina, the daughter of singer...
12:41AM ( 13 hours ago )
Obama calls GOP criticism of Iran deal 'ridiculous,' 'sad'
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — President Barack Obama unleashed a blistering and belittling rebuke of Republican White House hopefuls Monday, calling their attack on his landmark nuclear deal with Iran...
10:52PM ( 14 hours ago )