The New York Times, which broke the story, reports:
When employers provide coverage, their contributions, averaging more than $5,000 a year per employee, are not counted as taxable income to workers. But the Internal Revenue Service said employers could not meet their obligations under the health care law by simply reimbursing employees for some or all of their premium costs.The IRS ruling is an effort by the Obama administration to stop employers with 50 or more workers from doing what critics of the health law said they would do: pay a penalty for not providing insurance and dump workers into the unpopular Obamacare program.
With the Nov. 4 midterm elections looming, the Obama administration could not allow massive waves of employer cancellations before Democrats face an already angry electorate. So the IRS ruled it would slap any employer with a $100 tax penalty per day per worker that used tax-exempt health insurance monies to cut workers a lump check and dump them on the Obamacare exchanges.
The new IRS rule comes on the heels of the Obama administration's announcement that it will bail out insurers which participate in the Obamacare program which lose cash. As the Times notes, "Administration officials hope the payments will stabilize premiums and prevent rate increases that could embarrass Democrats in this year’s midterm elections."