| WASHINGTON, April 22
WASHINGTON, April 22 Are ski instructors
seasonal workers that should get health care coverage by their
employer under President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul?
That is just one of many details the U.S. Internal Revenue
Service has to work out by January 2014, with hordes of special
interest groups lobbying the agency between now and then.
Assigned to implement the employer coverage section of
Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act, the IRS will hold a hearing at
its Washington headquarters on Tuesday to hear from various
groups interested in the so-called "pay or play" rules.
Under the rules, a large employer must pay an excise tax
penalty if it fails to provide adequate coverage for even one
full-time employee, forcing that employee to get a tax credit to
buy health insurance through one of the new state insurance
The IRS must write rules defining which employers, with 50
or more full-time employees, need to provide coverage. The rules
also must spell out which employees qualify for this coverage.
The IRS issued proposed rules in January, which are subject
to change following the hearing.
"These are very complicated issues" for the IRS, said Seth
Perretta, a lawyer with Crowell & Moring LLP. "They're working
hard to come up with rules that employers will like, while
trying to limit the possibility for manipulation."
For example, the IRS has not yet fully defined a seasonal
employee who qualifies for coverage, casting doubt over coverage
for professionals such as ski instructors and, more meaningfully
for most communities, school teachers.
Some school districts are worried their costs of coverage
will rise for some employees over summer-break months.
The American Federation of Teachers, a union for teachers,
warned in a March 18 letter to the IRS that the proposed rules
could encourage employers to reduce employees' hours.
The AFL-CIO, the largest labor federation, is worried
employers might find loopholes to dodge health coverage.
"The proposed rule offers employers a myriad of ways to
reduce the scope of coverage they currently offer," the AFL-CIO
said in a March 18 letter to IRS.
Temporary staffing companies are worried, too. They fear
being hit by the law's penalty if they do not provide health
coverage to their temporary workers.
Hire Counsel, a temporary legal staffing firm serving law
firms and corporations, is asking the IRS to exempt staffing
agencies from providing health insurance for temporary
employees, according to its March 18 comment letter.
In May, the IRS will hold a hearing on the "minimum
essential coverage" healthcare rules.
The IRS is also expected to soon issue guidance on what new
forms employers and employees must fill out for healthcare