Equifax Workforce Solutions, an arm of credit reporting agency Equifax Inc., will help verify the incomes of people who apply for federal subsidies to buy insurance under the new health care law.

The use of a commercial information vendor, hired by the Obama administration, comes as Congressional Republicans express concerns about the ability to verify data in subsidy applications. Subsidies, in the form of tax credits, will be available to millions of low- and moderate-income people who are not eligible for Medicaid and have not been offered affordable coverage by employers.

The subsidies, averaging more than $5,000 a year per person, will be available starting Oct. 1 through marketplaces, or exchanges, where consumers in each state can shop.

Equifax Workforce Solutions will provide information that is more current than what's available on federal income tax returns.

The contract requires Equifax to provide income information “in real time,” typically within a second of receiving a query from the federal government. Equifax states that much of its information comes from data provided by employers and updated each payroll period. Under the contract, Equifax can use sources such as credit card applications but must develop a plan to indicate the accuracy of data and to reduce the risk of fraud. Equifax also is supposed to find a way to provide information about whether people have employer-sponsored coverage and how much they pay for it.

Federal officials said the 12-month contract with Equifax could be extended, bringing its potential estimated value to $329.4 million over five years.

The White House announced this month that it is delaying until 2015 a key provision of the health care law that requires larger employers to offer medical coverage to employees and to report coverage to the Internal Revenue Service.

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