Affordable Care Act: Businesses Shouldn’t Expect Dramatic Changes Right AwayDecember 12, 2016
Presidential campaigns always bring heightened rhetoric and seemingly limitless promises that, more often than not, prove difficult to keep. The most recent election was no different, and one area that received myriad coverage and discussion was the Affordable Care Act (ACA), colloquially known as Obamacare. Many consider the now six-year old law—which among other things requires all citizens to have health insurance, requires businesses of a certain size to provide it and has penalties in place for those who do not comply—the centerpiece of President Obama’s two terms in office, whether they support it or not.
And now that the presidential election is over and President-elect Trump has emerged victorious, business owners are curious to know what kind of future—if any—the ACA has.
The President-elect was vocal and often animated during the campaign about his plans to “repeal and replace” the ACA when elected, and to do it right away. It was clearly one of his top campaign promises; his view was the ACA was not working and needed to be supplanted by something better. Anyone who observed this past election on even a peripheral level was clear on where he stood on this issue.
But now that Trump has been elected, that stance has softened. There is talk coming from the President-elect, his supporters and even people in Congress that there are some aspects of the ACA that they like—such as the ban on insurance companies taking pre-existing conditions of patients into account, for example—and what we could instead see is more of an alteration or amendment of the law rather than an outright repeal and replace.
This truth is the ACA has been the law of the land since 2010, has withstood dozens of Congressional efforts to repeal it and was even upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012. Once a law is put into place and implemented, particularly a law as vast and far-reaching as the ACA, removing it completely becomes very difficult to do.
What does this mean for business owners in 2017? For starters they should not expect any major changes to take place right away. For employees who found coverage through one of the ACA-mandated health care exchanges, those policies are likely in place through the year and possibly will remain so beyond 2017. Companies which fall under the ACA’s requirements (employing 50 full-time people or more) could still face penalties if they choose to withdraw or stop complying. As always, just as they have for the past five years, employers need to recognize the ACA as still intact and plan for 2017 accordingly. The truth is, even if there was an outright repeal of the law—which, again, seems unlikely; it will probably take a couple of years to take effect. Such changes simply cannot be put in place overnight.
For companies that fall under the requirements of the ACA, strict compliance has to be a part of their planning for at least the year to come. Given how many moving parts there are to the ACA and how many different variables could affect its future, to assume any major changes at this point—before the new administration even begins—would not be advisable. For now, patience is required, as well as continued adherence and keeping a close eye on the politics of it all in 2017.
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