It has been a busy couple of weeks for speculation on the future of the Affordable Care Act. Only hours after taking the oath of office, President Trump issued an executive order directing applicable agencies to “ease the burdens of the Affordable Care Act,” Republican “repeal and replace” proposals continue to dominate the news, and major Affordable Care Act reporting deadlines are fast approaching. With all of the ever-changing reports, proposal discussions, timing concerns, and general confusion around the future of the law, many employers are left wondering, “Where are we now?”
While the President’s executive order represented his first major step toward fulfilling his promise of ACA repeal, the effects of the order remain to be seen. This is because the order’s impact depends solely on the discretion of heads of the applicable agencies, many of whom have not yet been confirmed. Because the order’s language is a vague request for action from the agencies themselves, its impacts on the ACA could range anywhere from minor to extreme.
In addition to the President’s executive order, ACA repeal and replacement plans were a major topic of discussion at the Philadelphia meeting of Republican lawmakers last week, and while there is no consensus on a full strategy for replacement yet, those in attendance indicated that they plan to have a replacement strategy finalized in the coming weeks and months. The various proposals made would range from allowing states to choose if they retain the law, to reduction of some features of the law and retention of others, to a more complete elimination of the vast majority of the law’s provisions. Therefore, again uncertainty reigns.
For employers impacted by the ACA employer mandate who face upcoming 1095 mailing and IRS filing deadlines, the best advice is to continue to follow the IRS instructions and remain vigilant with ACA compliance efforts. While the administration has taken initial steps toward an overhaul of the law, it remains in effect today and thus requirements, mandates, and penalties are all still applicable. Employers wondering “Where are we now,” would be wise to keep their nose to the grindstone and their eyes on the news. While the answer to their question is currently one focused on ongoing ACA compliance, they must remain abreast of any agency action as a result of the President’s executive order as well as any movement on ACA replacement proposal bills.