IRS hasn’t given up on enforcing individual mandate

IRS building sign
The IRS’ position on the ACA’s individual and employer mandates is evident in two letters it sent in response to inquiries about enforcement of the law. (Getty/wingedwolf)

Despite what many consumers—and even insurers—may believe, the Internal Revenue Service has indicated it will continue to enforce the Affordable Care Act’s individual and employer mandates unless the law changes.

Part of the confusion over whether the mandates will continue to be enforced comes from an executive order issued by President Donald Trump, which instructed federal agencies to roll back ACA regulations that they deem burdensome.

But the IRS’ position is evident in two letters it sent in response to inquiries about enforcement of the ACA’s individual and employer mandates, according to an article from the ACA Times.

Both contained similar language, clarifying that the executive order does not change the law and that the legislative provisions of the ACA still apply unless Congress changes them. Thus, “taxpayers remain required to follow the law,” the agency noted.

Congressional Republicans have indeed tried to unwind the mandates—including through their ACA repeal attempts and a provision in a recent spending bill that originated in the House. Neither have so far become law.

RELATED: Senate GOP’s ‘skinny repeal’ fails after John McCain defects

Yet evidence shows that taxpayers aren’t convinced the individual mandate still applies, Washington and Lee University Professor Timothy Jost noted in a Health Affairs blog post. For one, the government reported in April that a third fewer people were paying the penalty for remaining uninsured than the year before.

Plus, many ACA exchange insurers are raising their 2018 rates in response to the possibility of the nonenforcement of the individual mandate, he added.

In fact, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis indicated that most insurers factored uncertainty about the individual mandate and the future of cost-sharing reduction payments into their preliminary rate filings. For some, it directly influenced their rates, while others indicated they would change their rates if there was a major market disruption.