On May 4, 2017, the House narrowly passed a revised version the American Health Care Act (AHCA) – the GOP’s bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The Senate has the next move. Rather than vote on the House bill, the Senate Republicans plan to write their own version and incorporate elements of the House bill into it.
At present, there are no action items for employers. In its current form, the AHCA keeps the employer mandate requiring employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees to offer minimum essential coverage. However, it reduces the employer penalties to zero. So, employer reporting requirements would remain in effect, but there would be no financial penalties for failure to offer minimal essential coverage.
If the AHCA becomes law, dropping coverage could still be financially risky according to some experts. Employers who simply drop coverage once the law goes into effect could, under some limited circumstances, potentially face lawsuits for impermissible reduction in benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). There is some debate about this, however.
Much remains unknown at this time. The Congressional Budget Office has yet to assess the House bill, and the Senate version of the bill could turn out to be very different, in which case the differences would need to be resolved in a conference committee.
We will be watching closely as this process continues and will keep you apprised of important updates. If a final version the AHCA passes both the House and Senate and is signed by President Trump, we will notify you and explain your options going forward.
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