WASHINGTON (AP) — Some families could get priced out of health insurance due to what's being called a glitch in President Barack Obama's overhaul law. IRS regulations issued Wednesday failed to fix the problem as liberal backers of the president's plan had hoped.
As a result, some families that can't afford the employer coverage that they are offered on the job will not be able to get financial assistance from the government to buy private health insurance on their own. How many people will be affected is unclear.
The Obama administration says its hands were tied by the way Congress wrote the law. Officials said the administration tried to mitigate the impact. Families that can't get coverage because of the glitch will not face a tax penalty for remaining uninsured, the IRS rules said.
"This is a very significant problem, and we have urged that it be fixed," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, an advocacy group that supported the overhaul from its early days. "It is clear that the only way this can be fixed is through legislation and not the regulatory process."
But there's not much hope for an immediate fix from Congress, since the House is controlled by Republicans who would still like to see the whole law repealed.
The affordability glitch is one of a series of problems coming into sharper focus as the law moves to full implementation.
Starting Oct. 1, many middle-class uninsured will be able to sign up for government-subsidized private coverage through new health care marketplaces known as exchanges. Coverage will be effective Jan. 1. Low-income people will be steered to expanded safety-net programs. At the same time, virtually all Americans will be required to carry health insurance, either through an employer, a government program, or by buying their own plan.
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