By Peter Sullivan and Sarah Ferris - 02/20/15 10:26 AM EST
The administration sent the wrong tax information to 800,000 people who have enrolled in ObamaCare, officials announced Friday.
The information used to calculate subsidies was wrong on about 20 percent of tax forms, an error that could delay tax refunds for thousands of people.
But the tax glitch quickly provided new ammunition for Republicans, who continue to argue that the healthcare law is fatally flawed.
“Surprise, surprise, the Obama administration still does not have its act together,” Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnGrowth of red tape outpaces economy IRS chief refers GOP allegations against Clinton Foundation to internal office Five ways Trump’s convention was a success MORE (R-Tenn.), vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wrote in a statement.
She said the new problems offer more proof that the IRS should be kept out of healthcare, and pledged to redouble her efforts to repeal the ObamaCare insurance penalty entirety.
"The Obama administration has built a healthcare law so complex, so confusing, and so costly that even they don't know how to properly administer it," Rep. Diane BlackDiane BlackGOP Rep. Black wins primary fight House approves bill to shield anti-abortion healthcare workers Conscience rights under threat in US MORE (R-Tenn.) added in a statement just minutes after the error was disclosed.
Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said Wednesday he couldn’t yet explain the error. He said the administration remains focused on ensuring that "every Marketplace consumer understands how taxes and health care intersect."
When asked Friday if the White House owed taxpayers an apologize, Earnest said the issues would be addressed promptly and people would be able to pay their taxes on time.
“Certainly the American people should hold their government to a high standard and should count on these kinds of operations being implemented effectively,” Earnest said. “And when they're not, they should expect government officials to step forward and solve them as quickly as possible and that's exactly what they're trying to do,”
ObamaCare officials have struggled with this year’s tax season, which is the first time that people must factor in their insurance subsidies as they file. This year also marks the first time that millions of Americans will be slapped with penalties for lacking insurance in 2014.
CMS also announced Friday that it would add an extra signup period for people who still lacked coverage but didn’t know about the penalty. Republicans said the last-minute move demonstrated another failure of ObamaCare.
“The Administration’s latest attempt to unilaterally tweak their own law to avoid political fallout once again underscores the failed policies rooted in Obamacare’s DNA.” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin HatchGOP lawmakers call for overhaul of proposed corporate tax rules DEA decision against reclassifying marijuana ignores public opinion Trump op-ed counters Clinton’s pitch to Utah voters MORE (R-Utah) wrote in a statement Friday.
He added that the tax issues – on top of the new signup period – mean that “Obamacare continues to frustrate and confuse Americans.”
Top Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellJuan Williams: Trump's race politics will destroy GOP Rank-and-file GOP fear lame-duck vote on pricey funding bill Clinton, Trump sharpen attacks MORE (Ky.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanJuan Williams: Trump's race politics will destroy GOP Rank-and-file GOP fear lame-duck vote on pricey funding bill Clinton, Trump sharpen attacks MORE (Wis.), have already seized on this year’s extra-complicated tax season to renew opposition of the healthcare law.
The tax problems will provide a new line for attack for Republicans as they question HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell during a hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Committee next Thursday. Tax issues, combined with the new reporting period, could also create new headaches for the administration as it prepares to defend the healthcare law at the Supreme Court next month.
Anti-ObamaCare groups also seized on Friday’s news, renewing calls for repeal.
Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, said Obama administration officials should be held accountable for their "incompetence and overreach."
"They said they could run our lives better than we can. They were wrong. They can't even get this one piece right. How many Obama appointees will get fired? My guess: Zero," Norquist said.
This story was updated at 2:14 p.m.