Revised Version of Health Reform Still Lifts Burdens for Employers

After a failed attempt in March, the president managed to get a revised health reform bill passed in the House.

By Rebecca Moore | May 05, 2017
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The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed a revised version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

So, what changes were made to allow President Donald Trump to get enough votes to pass this time? With the previous version, major hold-outs were members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who said the proposed bill retained too many elements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Freedom Caucus was especially concerned with provisions regarding essential health benefits.

James Gelfand, SVP of Health Policy, at the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC), based in Washington, D.C. says the new bill shored up conservative support by allowing states to impose work requirements in Medicaid, and giving states the option to apply for a waiver to suspend certain ACA insurance rules. Steve Wojcik, vice president, public policy at the National Business Group on Health (NBGH), who is based in Washington, D.C., says an amendment allows states to have flexibility in defining essential health benefits, especially for individual and small group markets. And, according to news reports, states would also have flexibility in making rules for pre-existing health condition coverage.

Gelfand adds that it shored up moderate support by creating a $15 billion invisible high risk pool to help people with high premiums, and an $8 billion fund to help people adversely affected by suspension of community rating rules in their state.

However, research from Willis Towers Watson suggests that employers expect to retain some of the ACA’s popular provisions, “even if they are not required to by a new law.” Julie Stone, a national health care practice leader at Willis Towers Watson, said in a press release, “Employers are more likely to retain some of the popular ACA benefit provisions because of their positive impact on employee engagement and the potential for changes to be viewed negatively in the context of overall rewards.”

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