ACA: While questions swirl, it remains the ‘law of the land’

It appeared as though earlier this year that the Affordable Care Act would be repealed, relieving employers of many regulatory obligations. However, when Congress failed in March to act on the American Health Care Act, it left the Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare – in place, along with its regulatory provisions.

As stated by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the ACA remains the “law of the land.” Therefore, employers should continue to comply with the employer mandate and the associated reporting.

Furthermore, employers should continue tracking hours, including any measurement periods used for variable hour or seasonal workforces. Should an employer face an employment tax audit, for instance, compliance with all federal regulations, including ACA, will be examined.

Nonetheless, the future of the state of health care remains in flux. President Trump’s first executive order upon taking office in January was to direct federal agencies to waive or delay healthcare regulations that could be shown to be a burden to individuals, health care providers or insurance companies.

But when Congress did not vote on the American Healthcare Act, it appeared that the repeal of Obamacare would take a backseat to other legislative priorities. However, according to an April 14 Wall Street Journal report, the president has renewed his focus to overhaul health care ahead of tax reform.

Even if no law is passed in the near future, many experts expect that the flaws in the ACA will cause it to implode on its own anyway.

This leaves several possibilities for the future of health care:

  • Possibility 1: The ACA remains the law, but the Trump administration doesn’t enforce penalties associated with the individual and employer mandates, taxes and other ACA requirements. The administration would also likely continue expanding hardship exemptions from the individual mandate and encourage states to apply for innovation waivers (a recent memo from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services also encourages this).
  • Possibility 2: The ACA remains the law, but Trump decides to let the ACA proceed with enforcement and penalties, so as to allow ACA’s progression (and in his words, to allow it to “explode”).
  • Possibility 3: Ryan and Trump continue working behind the scenes to garner additional support, either amongst Republicans or across the aisle with Democrats. Although Ryan and Trump have publicly stated they won’t spend more time in the near future on ACA repeal and replacement, they could incorporate at least some portions of repeal and replace into their comprehensive tax reform efforts.

Even with all the uncertainty, we advise that you continue to follow the mandates and regulations set out in the ACA. We will be sure to keep you updated as the issue continues to evolve.

Tony Wilson, managing director with NUVISION Financial Corporation, contributed to this article.

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