Q&A on the first big deadline of the ACA
September 30, 2013
By Alex Nussbaum (Bloomberg)
(Bloomberg) Obamacare’s insurance exchanges debut on October 1 and so far the run-up has looked a lot like a political campaign, with dueling TV ads, door-knocking volunteers and a focus on swing-state targets.
Just don’t expect the usual ending to an election: a clear winner at the end of the day.
While the exchanges are expected to open on time, that milestone is unlikely to settle the 3-1/2-year grudge match over the Affordable Care Act. A long enrollment season, complicated by a threatened U.S. government shutdown and a growing list of technical glitches, means it may be as late as April before it’s known how many uninsured Americans sign up under the law.
While the shutdown won’t stop the rollout, which is largely funded through mandatory appropriations that can’t be curtailed by congressional inaction, it’s an open question whether it will lessen public enthusiasm to enroll. In the meantime, technical glitches are beginning to surface.
People in Oregon, for example, won’t be able to enroll in a plan for the first few weeks unless they go through a broker or designated nonprofit groups, and the Obamacare exchange in the nation’s capital won’t include premium prices until mid- November.
The Obama administration says other glitches are inevitable as the system starts up. The question is how serious the glitches will be, and how long it will take the exchange to fix any issues. An extended crash or a problem calculating subsidies could be an embarrassment for the White House — and sour consumers just as the administration tries to convince them to enroll.
washington, D.C. (September 30, 2013)
By Daniel Hood
With a political stalemate looming in Washington, the Treasury Department and the IRS released their contingency plan for what would happen at the service in the event of a government shutdown — and one thing that wouldn’t happen is any postponement of tax filing deadlines.
The plan covers what the IRS has done to prepare for a possible shutdown, how it would initiate its plans, and how it would re-activate its functions afterward. It is designed to comply with the Anti-Deficiency Act, which prohibits spending or employing personnel during a lapse in government appropriations — except to protect life or property –- unless they are otherwise authorized by law.
While the plan lists several functions that will be suspended, it expects that tax filing and processing will continue, so the upcoming October 15 deadline for extensions will remain a hard date. The IRS will also continue designing next season’s tax forms, and testing next year’s filing software.
The agency expects that it would take half a day to shut down those activities that aren’t excepted, and that only around 8,700 of its 94,500 employees, or 9.3 percent, would remain on the job.
Though extensive, the 61-page document only covers what will happen if the shutdown lasts five days; if it goes beyond that, deputy commissioner for operations support will initiate a re-assessment of activities and any necessary adjustments in terms of personnel.
Washington, D.C. (September 18, 2013)
By Richard Rubin
(Bloomberg) Kat Morgan will check a “married” box on her federal tax return next year for the first time since her 2009 wedding, now that the Internal Revenue Service will recognize same-sex marriages no matter where couples live.
Her South Carolina income tax return will be another matter, because of the state’s constitutional prohibition against treating her marriage as legal. She and her wife, Daena Petersen, will probably need to create dummy federal tax returns used only to fill out separate state tax forms, on which they will each declare themselves single.
“Annoying doesn’t begin to capture how it feels,” said Morgan, a 50-year-old nonprofit professional in Charleston who was married in Vermont and moved to South Carolina for her wife’s job earlier this year. “Every time I have to check that box, there’s a disconnect between what’s reality and what’s recognized here in South Carolina.”
The IRS’s decision last month to recognize all same-sex marriages is reversing the scenario that had been in place. Until now, same-sex couples in states that recognize gay marriage filed joint state returns as well as separate federal returns declaring themselves single. The burden of enforcing laws at odds with federal policy now falls on states such as South Carolina that prohibit same-sex marriage.