Below are key health care reform developments from the week of May 15th.
- ACA Repeal Efforts. Efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continue despite slowing down as the House of Representatives’ American Health Care Act (AHCA) is being considered by the Senate. The Senate has formed a bipartisan working group to explore the possibility of passing bipartisan ACA repeal legislation. No details have been provided as to what a Senate ACA repeal bill would look like, but Senate leadership has indicated that at least some of the ACA-related tax provisions may need to remain in place.
- CBO Estimate Coming. On a related note, reports last week indicated that the House of Representatives has not yet formally sent the AHCA to the Senate. The House is waiting for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate of the AHCA as passed in early May. The CBO announced that the estimate should be publicly released on May 24th.
- New Legislation. As more and more insurance carriers are electing to leave the ACA Marketplaces, individuals are finding that coverage eligible for premium and cost-sharing subsidies is unavailable. A new bill introduced in the House of Representatives, the Freedom from the ACA Tax Penalty Act, would provide relief from the individual mandate tax penalty for people who cannot purchase Marketplace coverage because there are no options available.
- Direct Enrollment under SHOP. Data shows that enrollment in Federal-facilitated Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplaces is far below that previously estimated by the CBO. As a result, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it intends to propose regulations that would permit direct SHOP Marketplace enrollment though insurance carriers or with the use of an agent or broker. Currently, in order to have access to the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit, employers must enroll in the SHOP Marketplace through HealthCare.gov.
- ACA Cost-Sharing Reduction Payments At Risk. House of Representatives v. Price (formerly House of Representatives v. Burwell) is again in the news as the Justice Department was required to determine whether to continue defending the lawsuit by May 22nd. This litigation, brought by the House of Representatives, claims that the cost-sharing reduction payments permitted under the ACA are unconstitutional because they were not specifically appropriated by Congress. A district court ruled in favor of the House of Representatives last year. In February, the House and Justice Department filed a joint motion to place the proceedings on hold. On Monday, the Justice Department requested another 90-day abeyance. While the proceedings are on hold, the cost-sharing reduction payments will continue.