House Ways & Means Committee Sets Its Sights on Modifying Obamacare

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Employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees may soon get some relief from the ACA penalties for either not offering coverage or for not offering coverage that meets the minimum value and affordability standards.

Healthcare News from Washington came out this past week when the House Ways and Means Committee approved legislation aimed at weakening Obamacare, including a measure that would temporarily repeal the law's employer mandate. 

The bill would suspend penalties for the employer mandate for 2015 through 2019, while also delaying the implementation of the tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health plans until 2022 (the Cadillac Tax).  Congress had repealed the employer individual mandate penalty last year, which is supposed to go into effect in 2019.

"I think it's fair, if we relieve the burden for individuals, that we stand with our small and mid-sized companies," said GOP representative Mike Kelly, who sponsored the bill along with David Nunes (R-Calif.)

Powerful small business lobbying groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have pushed for a repeal of the employer mandate and are pleased with the outcome.

A second measure, sponsored by Reps. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) and Michael Burgess (R-Texas), would allow the use of Obamacare's tax credits for plans outside of the exchanges in the individual market, while allowing anyone to purchase a catastrophic plan — which are significantly less costly but offer less coverage and only available for individuals age 30 or less.

The bill "provides a much needed offramp for pressure people are feeling right now in terms of premium increases and limited choices," Roskam said.

Democrats opposed the bills, saying they would cost too much and destabilize Obamacare but both bills passed on party line votes and will proceed.