ACA Reform Bill Passes House and Senate

October 7, 2015

pic-health-reformBoth the House and the Senate have now passed a rare but important reform of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka “Obamacare”). Following action on the House floor early last week, the Senate followed suit by passing the “Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act” (S. 1099) late Thursday by unanimous consent. The measure gives states back the flexibility they previously had in determining the size of employers covered by the small group market, allowing them to add market stability and contain premium growth for many small companies. The bill should be sent to the President for his signature at any time.

Introduced in the spring by a bipartisan and bicameral group of lawmakers, the bill gives states back the flexibility to decide whether to increase the small group size from 50 to 100 employees. Generally, small group health insurance rules have applied to employers with fewer than 50 employees, however under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) the rules governing small group plans will expand to groups of up to 100 employees beginning January 1, 2016. In doing so, many companies may see a significant increase in premiums, which could likely cause many of them to curtail coverage, drop coverage, or shift to a self-insurance option.

Reducing the high cost of health care on small businesses remains a top priority for NSBA. NSBA would like to in particular thank Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) for their introduction of S. 1099 and for shepherding this bill to a successful conclusion on the Senate floor.

Once the bill becomes law, the debate will turn to the states, where the impact will vary. Some states have taken action in anticipation of this legislation, others must await a return of their legislatures, while still others have granted authority to the executive branch to take action.