A Treasury Department official said Thursday that employer difficulties in complying with PPACA's coverage reporting requirements led to the recent employer mandate delay.
Mark Iwry, a health policy advisor at the Treasury Department, also said the administration relied on Section 7805(a) of the Internal Revenue Code, which gave it authority to delay the mandate's enforcement.
Iwry discussed the mandate delay at a hearing organized by the House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee. The hearing was streamed live on the Web.
The hearing came after House Republicans voted Wednesday to delay core provisions of PPACA. Republicans have argued that the administration's delay shows PPACA is unworkable.
The Treasury announced July 2 in a blog post that it would delay by one year, to 2015, the mandate in PPACA that requires companies with 50 or more full-time workers to provide health coverage or pay fines.
Iwry told lawmakers that IRS and its parent, the Treasury Department, have long used IRC 7805(a) to provide transitional relief when it seems that applying a new law immediately would subject taxpayers to unreasonable burdens or costs.
Recently, for example, the IRS gave taxpayers an extra year to comply with an investment basis reporting requirement that was supposed to take effect Jan. 1, 2013, Iwry said.
Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., chairman of the subcommittee, questioned why Treasury officials could not offer broader mandate delay relief.
"Every employer in America gets a waiver from the employer mandate tax," Murphy said. "The American people, however, get no waiver from the mandates, the taxes, and burdens of this law."
Iwry was unclear about future delays when asked about it by Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.
"We will evaluate the need for any other transitional relief on a case-by-case basis," Iwry said. "We don't have any specific provision that we've identified for which we would provide further relief."
DeGette questioned the motives of Republican colleagues on the subcommittee who called for the hearing but said she shares the concerns they have expressed about the Treasury Department's interpretation of its transitional relief authority.
"When we write a law, we expect that it will go into effect," DeGette said.