On May 4, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). An earlier version of the House bill, called the American Health Care Act (AHCA), had been debated in March but was not voted on due to opposition from Democrats and insufficient support from Republicans. This time around, after revisions were made regarding Medicaid funding, coverage of pre-existing conditions, and insurance market reforms, the bill squeaked through on a 217-213 vote.
Yesterday’s House vote was held without waiting for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to score the cost and impact of the bill. The AHCA now moves to the Senate for consideration, which will require CBO scoring. The bill’s fate in the Senate is far from certain. Without support from at least 50 of the 52 Senate Republicans, the bill will fail. At this time, at least five of those Senators have given public statements expressing doubts on the House version of the bill.
The primary focus of the AHCA is on funding for Medicaid and other state programs, maintaining stability in the individual insurance markets, and giving individual states more flexibility in opting out of insurance reforms. Also included are a number of provisions offering relief to employers and reducing the scope of requirements on group health plans. Below are highlights of provisions of the most interest to employers.
The bottom line for employers is this: The proposed AHCA includes many provisions that most employers would welcome as good news, such as relief from the employer mandate, repeal of various health plan fees and taxes, and fewer restrictions on group insurance and benefit plan designs. Those provisions, however, are part of a large piece of legislation that is not likely to pass the Senate without significant modification. Therefore, for now, nothing has changed and employers are advised to continue complying with current law.