Tracking the Affordable Care Act
As Congress tackles health care in America, the future of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, could be radically different this time next year. Or not. Workforce is keeping tabs on important developments in the ongoing attempt to repeal and reshape the ACA.
While the Affordable Care Act is a public exchange for health care, there are plenty of workplace implications now and in its future, should it be repealed. As that effort moves forward, the workplace stands to be affected, as well.
Job-based plans offered to employees and their dependents cover 150 million people, according to the Health Affairs Blog. The ACA introduced protections like pre-existing condition exclusions, annual out-of-pocket limits and dependent coverage up to age 26. Just a few are supported across party lines, while most are the cause of great political debate. Republicans, who now hold the majority in the House and Senate as well as the presidency, are in the process of repeal and replace.
Workforce is keeping running list of important developments in the ACA repeal effort. Workplaces have to comply with the ACA as long as it’s the law of the land, but as the health care landscape changes, they will also have to comply with a new reality.
May 4: The House narrowly passes the new version of the American Health Care Act. The new bill made major changes regarding essential benefits compared to the old AHCA. It would remove the federal standard for what is considered an essential benefit, putting that in the hands of individual states instead, and it would allow employers to choose benefits standards across state lines. Moving forward, the next step is the vote in the Senate.
March 24: The American Health Care Act is officially withdrawn.
March 23: The planned House vote on the American Health Care Act is postponed.
March 21: House Republican leaders amend parts of the American Health Care Act to ensure that they have the 216 votes to pass the bill out of the House on Thursday, March 23. The amendments did not change any parts of the AHCA related to employer-sponsored coverage or the employer mandate. One major change in Medicaid would be a requirement that able-bodied Medicaid recipients work, participate in a job training program or do community service.
March 13: The Congressional Budget Office releases their report on the impact the American Health Care Act would have. This report estimates that 7 million fewer people would have employer-based coverage by 2026.
March 9: The House Ways and Means Committee approved the American Health Care Act in a 23-16 vote.
March 6: House Republicans release their ACA replacement bill, the American Health Care Act. It would kill a new tax on employer-sponsored coverage, but keep Obamacare taxes around for another year. It would also remove the employer mandate penalty. Employers still would need to report their health care data but would not be fined for failing to do so.
Feb 28: President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of Congress, and one major talking point is the Affordable Care Act.
Feb. 16: Republican leaders outline an ACA replacement plan, which would relieve the financial burden and eliminate the tax penalties for both the individual and employer mandates.
Feb. 15: The HHS proposes its first substantial proposal regarding the ACA. It would shorten the enrollment period in which those in the individual market could enroll for Obamacare.
Feb. 15: In a quiet rule change, the Internal Revenue Service will no longer automatically reject tax returns that fail to state whether or not the tax filer offered insurance during the year. The IRS said in a statement that it was acting in direct response to January’s executive order, according to the LA Times.
Feb. 13: Humana announced that it would pull out of Obamacare’s insurance exchanges, the first major insurer to do so. Several other insurers have said that they can’t even begin to make this decision until the government clarifies how it plans on changing the rules.
Feb. 10: The Senate confirms Tom Price as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in a divisive 52-47 vote. Price is a strong opponent of the ACA. While Senate Republicans believe he will bring stability to American health care markets, the Senate Democrats think he will weaken federal entitlement programs like the ACA, Medicare and Medicaid.
Feb. 7: Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Bernie Sanders debate about the future of Obamacare on CNN. Cruz and Sanders, who have completely opposed viewpoints on the government’s role in health care, discussed controversial aspects of the law like the individual and employer mandates and popular ones like protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
Jan. 20: Hours after his inauguration, Trump signs an executive order regarding the ACA meant to “ease the burden of Obamacare.” The order allows the Department of Health and Human Services not to enforce regulations that impose a financial burden on a company or an individual.
Jan. 20: In his inaugural address, President Donald Trump did not mention anything about the Affordable Care Act. The speech showed that his primary interest lies with issues such as immigration and renegotiating trade deals rather than health care, according the the Wall Street Journal.
Jan. 16: President-elect Donald Trump vows that he is creating an ACA replacement plan, separate from that of Congress, with the goal of “insurance for all.” He has yet to answer questions about the specifics of the plan.
Jan. 13: The U.S. House of Representatives approve the budget blueprint as well.
Jan. 12: Taking the first major step in the repeal process, the Senate approved a budget blueprint that would allow them to gut the ACA without having to worry about a Democratic filibuster.
Jan. 4: Democratic lawmakers led by President Barack Obama and Republican lawmakers led by Vice President-elect Mike Pence hold dual meetings on Capitol Hill to discuss the future of the ACA. In a following press conference, Pence said the administration’s top priority will be to erase the ACA. On the Democratic side, Obama tried to mobilize lawmakers to keep the ACA intact.
Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editor. Comment below, or email at email@example.com. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.