A top IRS official assured Congress on Tuesday that the agency will be prepared to dole out health insurance subsidies to millions of Americans 15 months from now.
“Absolutely,” deputy commissioner Steven Miller responded, when asked by House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany whether the agency will be ready to implement a major part of President Obama’s health care law in 2014.
“We’re ready, we will be ready,” Mr. Miller said. “Based on the planning and structures we’ve put in place, we will be ready on the exchange provisions.”
To extend insurance coverage to low and middle-income Americans, the Affordable Care Act provides for state-based insurance marketplaces where shoppers may obtain federal subsidies to help buy coverage, based on their income.
Much of the administrative burden falls to the IRS, which is hiring hundreds of new agents to implement the law. Republicans have sought to block extra funds for the agency, charging that it’s taking on too large a task.
Mr. Miller also denied a charge that the agency will need to hire up to 16,000 new agents, an estimate which has been circulated by Republicans.
“There’s no basis for that number,” he responded to a question by Rep. Ron Kind, Wisconsin Democrat.
Mr. Miller said the agency assigned 620 agents to work on implementing the health care law in 2012 and will increase the workforce to 859 agents next year. But Republicans remained skeptical when he was unable to provide workforce estimates for 2014 and beyond.
“That concerns me,” said Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen. “What you’re telling me is you don’t have clear indication of what employment burdens will be put on the IRS to implement this law.”