NY Times: Rules for Equal Coverage by Employers Remain Elusive Under Health Law

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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is delaying enforcement of another provision of the new health care law, one that prohibits employers from providing better health benefits to top executives than to other employees.

Tax officials said they would not enforce the provision this year because they had yet to issue regulations for employers to follow.

The Affordable Care Act, adopted nearly four years ago, says employer-sponsored health plans must not discriminate “in favor of highly compensated individuals” with respect to either eligibility or benefits. The government provides a substantial tax break for employer-sponsored insurance, and, as a matter of equity and fairness, lawmakers said employers should not provide more generous coverage to a select group of high-paid employees.

But translating that goal into reality has proved difficult.

Officials at the Internal Revenue Service said they were wrestling with complicated questions like how to measure the value of employee health benefits, how to define “highly compensated” and what exactly constitutes discrimination.

Bruce I. Friedland, a spokesman for the I.R.S., said employers would not have to comply until the agency issued regulations or other guidance.

President Obama signed the health care law in March 2010. The ban on discriminatory health benefits was supposed to take effect six months later. Administration officials said then that they needed more time to develop rules and that the rules would be issued well before this month, when other major provisions of the law took effect.

A similar ban on discrimination, adopted more than 30 years ago, already applies to employers that serve as their own insurers. The new law extends that policy to employers that buy insurance from commercial carriers like Aetna, Cigna, Humana and WellPoint, or from local Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans.

Continue reading here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/us/rules-for-equal-coverage-by-employers-remain-elusive-under-health-law.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

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