House to pass new, bipartisan ObamaCare tweak

The House this week is expected to pass a new bipartisan bill that would create an exemption under ObamaCare for people working outside their home country.

The Expatriate Health Coverage Clarification Act, H.R. 4414, was introduced by Rep. John Carney (D-Del.) this week. The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and eight other House Republicans, along with 11 other House Democrats.

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An aide to Carney said the House is likely to consider it under a suspension of the rules on Wednesday, a sign it will pass easily.

Democrats have complained about House GOP efforts to amend or undermine ObamaCare more than 50 times without strong support from Democrats. But Republicans note that some bills have passed with Democratic support and have become law — the expatriate bill has a chance of becoming the eighth such bill.

Others that have been signed into law include bills to eliminate the "1099" paperwork mandate, cut $2.2 billion from a "Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan," cut $5 billion from the Prevention and Public Health "slush fund," and repeal a long-term healthcare entitlement called the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program.

In a letter to his House colleagues, Carney explained that expatriates such as businessmen, foreign aid workers, pilots and ship operators and others are usually covered by expatriate health insurance plans. Carney described these plans as high quality coverage for expatriate workers.

"Expatriate health insurance plans offer high-end, robust coverage to executives and others working outside their home country, giving them access to a global network of health care providers," Carney wrote. "Individuals on the plan could be foreign employees working here in America, Americans working abroad, or, for instance, a German working in France."

But Carney said ObamaCare was "inadvertently" written to require these expatriate health plans to comply with the healthcare law. He said that places a "unique burden" on these types of plans.

A House aide explained further that the law would impose administrative reporting requirements and tax obligations on U.S. insurance companies, but not their overseas competitors. Carney's letter said requiring U.S. health insurers to offer ObamaCare-compliant health plans to expatriates would therefore put them at an unfair advantage.

The Obama administration has already acknowledged the broad issue of how to insure expatriates through regulatory guidance. Officials have issued guidance saying that group health plans that cover expatriates who will be living outside the country for more than half the year are exempt from ObamaCare, but only through 2017.