Working Well

The Implications of Obamacare’s Future on the Workplace

Based on last week’s Obamacare meetings at Capitol Hill, what might workplaces expect in health care in the upcoming administration?

Dueling meetings regarding Obamacare took place last week on Capitol Hill, with President Barack Obama leading the Democratic lawmakers and Vice President-elect Mike Pence leading the Republicans. Both sides discussed the future of the Affordable Care Act and of health care in America.

The Republicans want to replace and repeal, but they don’t yet have the replacement plan. According to ABC News, after repealing it, they would delay any major changes for 18 months to three years in order to find a replacement. The Democrats want to make sure the health care law stays intact. Obama reminded Democrats that real lives are at stake and that the ACA is popular with many voters.

Meanwhile, President-elect Donald Trump said earlier this week on Jan. 10 that he wants to repeal the ACA soon but pass a replacement “very quickly or simultaneously.”  

Whatever the future of the Affordable Care Act is, it will have an impact on employers who provide health care and employees who rely on the ACA for coverage.

What the country needs is a bipartisan replacement which provides a patients’ bill of rights but is also easy for business owners to execute from the administrative standpoint, said Gretchen Van Vlymen, head of human resources at StratEx, an HR consulting firm.

Gretchen Van Vlymen, head of HR at StratEx.

“The heart of Obamacare is great,” said Van Vlymen. “That’s the patients’ bill of rights, which has important parts like making sure younger people up to 26 can stay on their parents’ plan and ensuring that people with preconditions can get health insurance.”

Even with a Republican president and a Republican majority in both the House and Senate, she believes the patients’ bill of rights will remain intact. Republicans, from a PR standpoint, probably won’t want to take away insurance from people who need it the most.

That being said, certain mandates won’t last from a business standpoint, like the individual mandate requiring individuals to have health insurance and the employer mandate requiring employers to cover full-time employees.

A major takeaway from this meeting is that the impact of Republicans repealing the law but having no replacement plan would have major consequences, said Van Vlymen.

“That scares me a little,” she said. “I want to make sure if we do repeal the law, we replace with something bipartisan that makes sense.”

Whether Republicans and Democrats will come up with a bipartisan plan is a different story.

“I hope that politicians are thinking about not only employees but also HR practitioners and business owners who have to follow the rules,’ said Van Vlymen. “I hope this becomes a more cooperative effort than a divisive one.”

Meanwhile, as businesses move forward, what they should do is realize that the ACA is still law and that they need to follow it unless it is repealed. With a Republican plan likely in the future, it would benefit HR people to make sure they educate themselves and employees on health savings accounts and high deductible plans, which may be the future of health care in the workplace.

Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editorComment below, or email at aburjek@humancapitalmedia.com. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.