House passes American Health Care Act

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the American Health Care Act by a 217-213 margin Thursday, moving the bill on to the Senate. The vote largely split along party lines, with all "yes" votes Republican and all "no" votes Democratic. Twenty Republicans voted against the measure, but House leadership and President Donald Trump were able to drum up enough support to clear the first legislative hurdle toward the replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

Here are some of the key provisions in the American Health Care Act as the bill stands now, according to the law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP, which summarized the legislation in a memorandum to The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, of which Plexus is a member:

→ Insurers, via state waivers, would have the ability to a) change the minimum essential health benefits offered in health coverage; b) underwrite on the basis of health status for people with high-risk health conditions under certain caveats; c) increase the age-based premium rating, which could lead to higher rates for older policyholders.

→ Employers will no longer be mandated to offer health insurance, nor will individuals be mandated to have health insurance or face a tax penalty. However, individuals could be subject to a 30 percent premium increase if lacking health insurance for more than 63 days.

→ Medicaid would undergo big changes, with federal funding to states being allocated per person enrolled. Also, expansion of Medicaid would be halted.

→ The federal health insurance exchange would be replaced by tax credits for individual plans and unsubsidized COBRA coverage. The credits range from $2,000 for people under 30 years old to $4,000 for those 60 years and older. Those in employer-health plans, other group insurance plans, Medicare or Medicaid are not eligible for the credits.

→ HSA contribution limits would be increased.

Looking forward

The focus now turns to how the Senate proceeds with the bill -- and whether the bill is in store for some significant changes. While the bill passed the House, it came under heavy criticism from constituents worried about losing some of the patient protections provided under the Affordable Care Act, most notably the broad protection provided to people with pre-existing medical conditions. It is unclear whether the American Health Care Act will be able to weather that storm.

The Plexus Groupe will continue to stay on top of all developments with health care reform and how changes could affect employees and employers alike, and we will continue to post the latest news and analysis on our website. For more information, don't hesitate to contact an employee benefits expert at any of our locations: Deer Park, Ill. (847-307-6100), Chicago (312-606-4800), Dallas (972-770-5010), Oklahoma City (405-840-3033).