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March Madness: The Road to a Vote is Over for the American Healthcare Act

March is typically known for basketball madness—busted brackets, Cinderella stories, buzzer beaters, and the road to the Final Four. The benefits world has experienced its own version of March madness this year.

On March 6, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced H.R. 277, more commonly known as the American Healthcare Act (“AHCA”). This budget reconciliation bill, based largely on the 2015 reconciliation bill that was vetoed by former President Obama, was aimed at repealing certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) that have a budgetary impact. Due to the limitations of using a reconciliation bill, the GOP indicated after introducing the bill that additional legislation to fulfill campaign promises of a full repeal of the ACA was in the works.

The AHCA was slated for a statement-making vote on March 23, 2017 (the 7 year anniversary of the ACA), but House Republican leaders delayed the vote as support was waning. The House vote was rescheduled for Friday and leaders continued to seek enough votes to pass the AHCA. However, the bill was ultimately pulled from the House floor late Friday afternoon when it became clear that Republicans did not have the required 216 votes to pass the AHCA.

Now that the road to a vote is over for the AHCA, we are left to wonder what’s next for the ACA. Are the repeal and replace efforts “one and done,” or will Republicans continue to try to garner support to make another run? Following the withdrawal of the bill, Speaker Paul Ryan stated, “Obamacare is the law of the land…we’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.” President Trump made reference to waiting for Obamacare to explode. Based on these remarks, it seems that the repeal and replace strategy will now be to keep the ACA in place, bet on the ACA not being sustainable, and then introduce legislation once the ACA “explodes.”

Next on the agenda for President Trump and Republicans is comprehensive tax reform. While it is possible that tax reform may include a repeal of ACA taxes, this game plan will likely be more of an uphill battle than passing the AHCA. Other methods to effectuate change to the ACA include, but are not limited to, new budget bills, regulatory amendments, and reduced enforcement of ACA provisions. Whatever happens next, we will continue to keep you informed. For now, the march to ACA compliance for employers continues.

The content herein is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not contain legal advice. Please contact our office if you have any questions about the ACA and its impact on group health plans.

Dated: March 28, 2017