Senate Rejects ACA Repeal Efforts

In the early morning hours of July 28, 2017, members of the U.S. Senate voted 49–51 to reject a “skinny” version of a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), called the Health Care Freedom Act (HCFA).

This was the final vote of the Senate’s 20-hour debate period, and effectively ended the Republicans’ current efforts to repeal and replace the ACA. However, the skinny repeal bill may be reintroduced at some point in the future.

What did the HCFA propose?

Similar to the American Health Care Act and the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the HCFA would repeal the ACA’s individual and employer mandate penalties, effective Dec. 31, 2015. However, the employer mandate repeal would only be effective through 2024.

In addition, the ACA’s reporting requirements under Sections 6055 and 6056 would remain intact.

The HCFA would have also:

· Extended the moratorium on the medical devices excise tax.

· Increased the contribution limit for health savings accounts up to the maximum out-of-pocket limits allowed by law for high deductible health plans.

· Amended the ACA’s existing Section 1332 State Innovation Waivers, added stricter requirements for the Department of Health and Human Services in approving waivers, and extended waivers to eight years (instead of five), with unlimited renewals.

What are the next steps for employers?

Because the Senate was unable to pass any ACA repeal or replacement bill, the ACA remains current law, and employers must continue to comply with all applicable ACA provisions.

Following the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that Republicans now intend to focus on other legislative issues, although they remain committed to repealing the ACA.