Human Resources News & Insights

ACA ‘repeal and replace’ plans in motion for 2017: What should HR do?

Republican House and Senate leaders have been energized by the election of a president likely to accept a proposal to repeal Obamacare. As a result, they’re preparing to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA) within the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s first term. 

Reports coming out of Capitol Hill indicate that the repeal measures GOP congressional leaders are planning to introduce would most likely be modeled after a 2015 repeal bill that was vetoed by President Obama. In addition, Senate leaders are thinking of using a process called reconciliation, which would allow budget bills to pass with a simple majority vote and bypass any filibuster attempts from Democrats.

Republicans are looking to pass repeal measures as Trump transitions into office, but delay the effective date of the repeal for two to three years.

GOP leaders are hoping the delay of the full rollback of Obamacare would sway enough Democrats to vote for the repeal and avoid a protracted legislative process.

The delay would also buy Republican lawmakers time to come up with a plan to replace the ACA so some 20 million Americans who purchased insurance on Obamacare’s exchanges don’t lose their health insurance seemingly overnight — while still fulfilling the promises of the Trump campaign to take down the existing law.

Republicans have released few details on what exactly their replacement plan may look like, but Trump said he wants it to save some of the more popular parts of the ACA — like guaranteed coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions and the ability for children to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until they are 26 years of age.

What does this mean for employers?

Employers, meanwhile, are left wondering: What do — and what can — we do with our company sponsored plans now?

The answer: Stay the course. Even if a repeal bill is passed the second Trump takes office, it’s unlikely to change anything in the near future.

For at least a little while, it looks like larger companies (those with 50+ employees) will still be subject to the employer mandate/shared-responsibility non-compliance penalties if they drop coverage — or even drop benefits limits significantly — for full-time equivalent employees (those working 30+ hours per week on average). The GOP hasn’t released any specific timelines.

That means large employers still have to work on complying with the ACA’s reporting requirements, for at least the 2016 plan year (for which reporting will be due in 2017).

Obamacare compliance should still be at the forefront of every employers’ actions, as it’s unlikely the feds will waive non-compliance penalties just because companies are banking on a future repeal.

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