Employers say they'd keep popular ACA benefits if law is repealed

 Dive Brief:

  • Many employers said they'd likely keep Affordable Care Act provisions that are popular with workers, even if they're not required to do so by law, according to a Willis Towers Watson survey, as reported by Payscale. According to the "2017 Emerging Trends in Health" survey, close to one-third of employers don't know what their future plans will be if the healthcare laws are changed, but more plan to keep popular provisions than implement changes.
  • WTW cited employee engagement and perception of benefits as the primary drivers behind the inclination to keep popular ACA benefits in place. The survey found that employers are likely to keep, among other benefits, contraceptive coverage (59% versus 11%) and the dependent coverage rule for children age 26 and under (48% versus 22%).
  • An April Gallup poll showed for the first time that most Americans favor the ACA, reports Payscale. About 55% of Americans prefer the ACA, while 30% want it repealed. Republican lawmakers are working to repeal the ACA and replace it with the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

Dive Insight:

With a narrow 217-213 win, House Republicans squeaked out a victory for their healthcare proposal, the AHCA, in May. An earlier defeat had temporarily stalled the bill. All 193 Democratic lawmakers voted down the bill twice. Senate Republicans plan to pass the bill before going out on their July 4 break, and Democrats fear that the GOP will push through the bill without committee approval. Whatever happens, employer and worker reaction to an ACA repeal might prove to be unpopular, especially if the AHCA knocks millions of Americans off the healthcare rolls.

Employers might wisely keep ACA provisions that workers like, as the WTW poll showed, rather than risk disengaging them and setting back recruitment and retention efforts that some of the law's provisions could help boost. 

HR leaders would probably prefer that the ACA's unpopular "Cadillac" tax and burdensome administrative requirements go away. But a repeal or extensive overhaul might require employers to give back federal government funds for initiatives like the early retiree reinsurance program. Also, workers would likely perceive the loss of ACA provisions they like as a reduction in benefits, which could negatively impact employee engagement. 

Employers might also find the return to pre-ACA days more expensive for them with a tax on employer-sponsored plans that the AHCA proposes. The possible backlash from healthcare consumers and the difficulty in repealing any law could make the replace and repeal process longer than anticipated. In the meantime, employers should keep complying with the ACA. 

Filed Under: HR Management Comp & Benefits