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Two weeks ago we provided historical context and a roadmap for the current round of healthcare reform. On March 24th, in a dramatic last-minute decision, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives decided to withdraw the American Health Care Act (AHCA) from a floor vote, effectively ending the prospect of legislative change, at the federal level, to current healthcare law.
The AHCA was to be the first step in the Republican-led effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With this vote postponement, no major healthcare reform legislation is expected in the immediate future.
Even as the bill was being drafted, it was shaping up to be a dicey effort. There was serious disagreement among Republicans themselves regarding the AHCA. The bill did not go far enough in repealing certain ACA provisions to satisfy strongly conservative members of the house. Add to that, the unsurprising total lack of support from Democrats and it became clear to speaker Ryan that there were not enough votes, so he pulled it from consideration just before it was to come to a vote.
This is a remarkable turn of events when you consider that over the past few years, house Republicans voted to repeal the ACA over 60 times (which of course president Obama vetoed each time) and now, when there is a president in office who would sign a repeal/replace bill, the Republicans couldn’t pass it.
What’s next? It’s likely that the Republicans will move on to other priorities (tax reform, the budget, immigration, etc.), but they will probably come back to healthcare reform, possibly this year. They ran on a platform of ACA repeal and replacement and they will want to address it. In fact, they may be forced to address it if certain problems in the ACA reach an acute stage: if for example, carriers continue to pull out of certain markets (not a problem in California) or if the risk pools become unsustainable.
In the meantime, it is possible that the secretary of HHS, who has some latitude within the current law, will make regulatory changes. We’ll keep you posted if any regulatory changes are made that impact the group market in California, but for now, you’ll want to advise your clients that the ACA is still the law.
Contact the small group experts at 800.696.4543 or firstname.lastname@example.org.