- January 2016
Throughout the nearly six years that have elapsed since enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Congressional Republicans have waged an unrelenting battle to repeal/de-fund/delay/alter the President’s signature first-term legislative achievement known as Obamacare. During the current 114th Congress’ first session, bipartisan agreement was reached on several NAW-supported incremental ACA reforms of substantial import to wholesaler-distributors and to the employer community generally:
HR 1624, Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees (“PACE”) Act was enacted, repealing the ACA-mandated expansion of the small group health insurance market to newly include employers of 51 – 100 employees. Sponsored by Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY-2), Tony Cardenas (D-CA-29), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK-2) and Krysten Sinema (D-AZ-9) in the House and Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in the Senate, the PACE Act passed in both houses unopposed by voice vote.
HR 1314, Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 was enacted. This budget package includes repeal of the ACA auto enrollment mandate applicable to employers of 200 + employees.
- S. 2029, the fiscal year 2016 omnibus appropriations and tax extenders bill was enacted. This session-ending legislative package includes a one-year pause in the application of the ACA’s premium, or health insurance tax known as the “HIT,” a two-year delay in the implementation of the ACA’s 40% excise tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health coverage known as the “Cadillac tax,” and a two-year moratorium on the ACA’s medical device tax.
As welcome as these legislative successes are, NAW and our allies in the employer community are continuing to work in various issue or subject matter-specific coalitions (principally the National Coalition on Benefits (NCB), Small Business Coalition for Affordable Health Care, and Stop the HIT Coalition) to fully repeal some of the ACA’s most serious flaws. Among the issues in the legislative mix are bills to replace the ACA’s 30 hours per week definition of “full time employee” with a 40 hours per week standard (HR 30/S. 30); to fully repeal the HIT (HR 928/S 183); and to protect self-funded health plans by excluding stop-loss coverage from the definition of health insurance coverage (HR 1423/S 775).
Advocates of these and other issues can take encouragement from Congress’ record during the last session: the House voted on a bipartisan basis to pass the full time employee bill and legislation to repeal the medical device tax, and both houses passed HR 3762, Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act, including provisions dropping the ACA’s employer mandate penalties and fully repealing the Cadillac, health insurance, and medical device taxes. The White House has announced the President will veto the bill.
On the litigation front:
Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions of note: In June, the Court in King v. Burwell upheld the validity of ACA premium subsidies for the purchase of insurance in federally-run exchanges. Just over two months later, the Court declined to review a lower court’s rejection, on procedural grounds, of a challenge to the Obama Administration’s delay in implementation of the ACA’s employer mandate.