House Looks to Advance Reconciliation

September 30, 2015

pic-capitolOn Sept. 28, the House Ways and Means Committee released a reconciliation bill that targets major pieces of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA). This was the first of three House committees that are putting together a legislative package that would employ the expedited budget reconciliation process to scrap a handful of mandates and taxes in the 2010 health care law. The reconciliation process allows legislation to move through the Senate with a simple majority, sidestepping the customary 60-vote requirement for passage.

The Ways and Means Committee bill repeals the PPACA’s employer and individual mandates, rolls back the 40 percent tax on high-cost employer plans, eliminates the medical-device tax and repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the panel charged with achieving specified Medicare savings.

The following day after its release, the Ways and Means Committee voted along party lines, 23-14, to send language to the Budget Committee that would repeal requirements in the law for most individuals to have health coverage and employers to offer it to workers or face penalties. The panel also¬†recommended scrapping the law’s¬†2.3 percent tax on medical devices and a tax on high-cost employer coverage. By voice vote, the committee also endorsed language that would repeal a not-yet-appointed Medicare cost-cutting board authorized by the overhaul.

The Energy and Commerce Committee will consider its own reconciliation measure on Wednesday that will take aim at federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The third House Committee on Education and the Workforce is expected to follow suit with their own recommendations on the same day. That bill repeals the PPACA’s auto-enrollment mandate requiring employers with 200 or more full-time employees to automatically enroll new full-time employees in health coverage if employees don’t sign up for coverage on their own. The budget panel will then assemble the recommendations into a package without the opportunity for amendments and report it to the House for floor consideration. However, the timing for House floor action is still uncertain.

A reconciliation bill only needs 51 votes to pass the Senate, giving it greater odds of reaching President Barack Obama’s desk. However, the president would almost certainly veto any measure defunding Planned Parenthood or dismantling his signature health care law.