Well, we’ve now got a timeline for the Republicans’ plan to jettison Obamacare. What we don’t have is any kind of clear idea of what’s going to replace it.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) explained the party’s 200-day legislative strategy during a private meeting of House and Senate Republicans at their annual policy retreat in Philadelphia, according to The Hill. The website said House committees will mark up a reconciliation package in the next couple of weeks, and Ryan will bring the final reconciliation package to the House floor by late February or early March.
What’s likely to be in the proposal?
“It will be a repeal with some replacement in it for what we’re able to do given the reconciliation process,” interim House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black (R-TN) told reporters. “Our goal is to make this a patient-centered healthcare system where we give people options.”
Healthcare savings accounts could be one of the replacement elements in the bill, she said, because they’re “something that people really do want.”
The Republicans are using the reconciliation process to take advantage of the fact that it allows budget bills to pass with a simple majority vote and bypasses any filibuster attempts from Democrats.
Doesn’t change employers’ responsibilities
Ryan’s announcement doesn’t mean much for employers in the short term.
You’re well aware of President Trump’s recent Executive Order, which directs federal agencies to exercise the authority granted to them to:
“waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.”
But as the attorneys for the law firm SchulteRoth&Zabel wrote on their website recently, “the executive order specifically states that its directives can be carried out only ‘to the maximum extent permitted by law.’” Everyone — government agencies, plans, plan sponsors, employers and health insurers — must continue to comply with the ACA’s provisions until new regulations or other regulatory guidance is issued. This also means that the health plans and policies that are currently in effect will likely remain unchanged, at least for the current plan year.
So employers will just have to stay the course. We’ll see what March brings.