Few topics have taken up as much space in the payroll and benefits blogosphere as Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliance. Ever since former President Obama’s signature legislation became law in 2010, payroll and benefits experts have been writing endlessly about what it means to employers, employees, and the healthcare industry as a whole. Nothing has changed some seven years later. Healthcare reform lives on despite attempts by the Republican-controlled Congress to roll back what their Democrat counterparts did in the past.
Congress tried in vain to repeal and replace ‘Obamacare’ earlier this year. Their inability to get a package done certainly has political ramifications that will be felt for years to come, but it also has ramifications for businesses that were already looking forward to an end to certain mandates. That end is nowhere in sight at this point.
Here is what we know about ACA compliance right now:
- Employer and Individual Mandates – Both mandates remain in effect for the remainder of 2017 and into next year. President Trump has directed the IRS to be less aggressive in its enforcement of the mandates, but less aggressive enforcement does not mean elimination.
- Cadillac Tax – Reformers have been looking to get rid of the so-called ‘Cadillac’ tax; the Republican bill preserved it nonetheless. When the tax is finally implemented in 2020, it will impose a 40% excise tax on the most expensive health insurance plans on the market.
- Employee Reporting – Current 1094 in 1095 reporting is still in force. Furthermore, President Trump’s executive order relating to enforcement applies to just about every entity in America except employers. There can be no lax reporting if employers want to stay out of the doghouse.
- Minimum Essential Coverage – The Republican bill aimed to remove some of the ambiguity of what constitutes minimum essential coverage. With the failure of the bill, companies are held to the same standards they have been following all along.
The reality is that nothing has changed with the ACA short of President Trump’s executive order on enforcement. Because that order does not address the employer mandate or 1094/1095 reporting, companies must continue doing what they have done in past years.
The Future of Healthcare Reform in the ACA
Whatever optimism remained for repealing and replacing Obamacare is rapidly fading thanks to the inability of Congress to get anything done on the budget or tax fronts. Some inside-the-Beltway experts are saying that the ACA will remain largely intact for the foreseeable future. Perhaps the only action we might see in the next 18 months are attempts to cap the employer tax deduction for health insurance premiums and open the door to competition across state lines.
Neither is a certainty given the filibuster power of the Senate. If the GOP does not feel it has the votes to get changes passed, we may see no further action on the ACA this year.
BenefitMall recommends that companies make no significant changes in their current standards for ACA compliance. It is best to assume things will continue as usual through the end of 2017 and into next year as well. BenefitMall also says that any employers having trouble with ACA compliance would do well to consider outsourcing with a vendor capable of handling it. BenefitMall is such a vendor.
ACA compliance will only get more difficult as time marches on, unless Congress can find a way to completely repeal the law and start over. That is not likely to happen. So employers have to stay on their toes to ensure they remain in compliance.