Throughout 2017, Republican Congressional leaders have focused on repealing, replacing or modifying the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Their efforts are ongoing and are expected to continue into 2018. In case you missed it, on Dec. 20, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which makes significant changes to individual and corporate provisions of the U.S. tax code, including a reduction in the corporate tax rate to 21%, down from 35%. The bill includes permanent effective repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual mandate, requiring individuals to purchase and maintain health coverage, by zeroing out the penalty beginning in 2019. For more information, visit our News Alerts page on www.InformedonReform.com.
Including the mandate repeal as part of tax reform came after Congress failed to pass a broader “repeal and replace” health care reform bill using budget reconciliation earlier this year. In addition to legislative efforts, there are other regulatory and administrative actions to keep an eye on as we head into 2018.
Earlier this fall, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) directing various departments to consider easing some health insurance rules related to small businesses, short-term limited-duration (STLD) health insurance policies and Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs). In the EO, agencies are directed to consider regulatory action within 60 days for Association Health Plans and STLD policies within 60 days. We anticipate proposed regulations will be released by end-of year in compliance with that direction. HRA action was given 120 days for consideration. It is important to note that the EO only provides guidance to agencies and does not make any immediate changes. Any details about potential changes will only be available once new or updated rules and guidance are released in response to the EO.
Furthering their efforts to make changes to the ACA using regulatory action, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) included a significant change to Essential Health Benefits in its 2019 Notice of Benefits and Payment Parameters proposed regulations. If included in the final regulations, states will be able to choose a new state benchmark plan annually beginning in 2019 by selecting another state’s benchmark, replacing one or more EHB categories with the same categories from another state, or selecting a new benchmark.
We expect to hear more about these proposed changes as we move into 2018. It is anticipated that the Administration will continue to explore other options to modify ACA requirements. As always, Cigna will communicate via updates and news alerts when and if legislative, regulatory or executive action on health care reform occurs, including updates to the topics listed above.
For more information about these topics, visit our News Alerts page on www.InformedonReform.com. For more information on ongoing ACA compliance requirements, please read our eNewsletter, Reform360.