- Republican senators are joining in on a bipartisan effort to fix, rather than end, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Bloomberg reports. Republican lawmakers failed to pass legislation to repeal the ACA during the eight months since President Trump took office.
- Taking the lead on a small first step to fix the healthcare system is Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). According to Bloomberg, Alexander wants an ACA package that includes funds for defraying insurers' costs for covering low-income Americans. He also wants states to decide how they want to cover their residents under the act.
- Back at the Capitol from their summer break, senators are expected to convene hearings on the ACA, Bloomberg says. Alexander said he hopes the Senate will pass an amended ACA bill by the end of the month.
Congress will likely convene soon to begin discussions on reforming the ACA, but until other legislative tempests are taken care of — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program included — any movement to repair the bill might remain on hold.
Employers that hoped some of the more burdensome aspects of the ACA would go away, such as the coverage mandate itself and complex reporting provisions, will be pleased that a bipartisan effort to fix the law is underway. But a complete repeal might not be what employers want. A Willis Towers Watson (WTW) survey showed that nearly a third of employers would prefer to keep Obamacare provisions that are popular with employees over those who want change.
More likely, employers and their advocates on Capitol Hill will hope for action on the drug pricing front. Pharmaceutical prices have skyrocketed in recent years, with specialty pharmacy prices alone accounting for the largest drive for large employer healthcare spend over the past two years. The WTW survey showed that employers also want to keep certain elements introduced by the ACA, including contraceptive coverage (59% are more likely to maintain coverage versus 11% in favor of reducing it) and the dependent coverage rule for children age 26 and under (48% would keep the provision versus 22% who would lower the age).
In the meantime, employers are expected to submit their reporting forms to the IRS; the agency is still enforcing the ACA's reporting mandate. Employers that failed to file must do so or pay a penalty. The IRS hasn't penalized employers for non-compliance in the nearly three years the law has been in force.