Inside Health Policy’s Rachana Dixit reports that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) — weary of being challenged on his record of opposing affordable health care coverage — has penned a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman questioning their interpretation of a provision in the Affordable Care Act that would allow individuals enrolled in a federal health exchange to receive premium and cost sharing subsidies when purchasing health insurance.
Democrats and the administration insist that Congress had intended to provide federal assistance to everyone buying insurance through the new regulated marketplaces, even if “the law says that the exchange subsidies… are available for those purchasing health insurance through a state exchange but makes no mention of their availability through exchanges operated by the federal government.” But a group of House Republicans had questioned this interpretation last month and Hatch is now joining their ranks in arguing that Americans enrolled in federal exchanges should be denied access to more affordable health coverage:
“Simply put, under current statutory law, there is no premium assistance amount…to the extent that an exchange is a federally-facilitated exchange. But contrary to the clear wording of the statute, your proposed regulations suggest otherwise, extending the availability of premium credits to those participating in federal exchanges,” Hatch writes in a Dec. 1 letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman.
Hatch says he is concerned that the rules as proposed, if finalized, would exceed the IRS’ regulatory authority, and if a change needs to be made in the law then Congress needs to be the one to pursue it. Hatch goes on to say that, “This excessive use of regulatory authority is only the continuation of a trend by the Treasury Department and IRS of violating the constitutional principle of separation of powers by usurping Congress’ exclusive role in law-making.”
Hatch hasn’t always stood in the way of more affordable coverage. This is coming from the same man who not only worked with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) to extend health care coverage to lower income children as part of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 1997, but also supported subsidizing health care coverage for lower income Americans in 1993 when he co-sponsored Sen. John Chafee’s (R-RI) Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act of 1993 as an alternative to Hillarycare.