Senate Releases Draft ACA Replacement Bill

On June 22, 2017, Republicans in the U.S. Senate released a draft of their proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). The Senate bill closely mirrors the proposal passed in the House of Representatives—the American Health Care Act (AHCA)—with some differences. For example, unlike the AHCA, the BCRA:

  • Would enhance the ACA’s Section 1332 State Innovation Waiver program; and
  • Would not allow issuers to impose a surcharge for individuals who do not maintain continuous coverage.

IMPACT ON EMPLOYERS

The Senate has not voted on any ACA repeal or replacement proposal at this time. The proposal would need a simple majority vote in the Senate to pass. However, amendments may be made before a Senate vote is taken. Republicans were pushing for a vote prior to the Senate’s July 4 recess, but have now indicated that they need more time. If the BCRA passes the Senate, it would need to go back to the House for approval before being signed into law by President Donald Trump.

ACA Provisions Not Impacted

Like the AHCA, the BCRA would not affect the majority of the ACA. For example, the following key ACA provisions would remain in place:

  • Cost-sharing limits on essential health benefits (EHBs) for non-grandfathered plans (currently $7,150 for self-only coverage and $14,300 for family coverage)
  • Prohibition on lifetime and annual limits for EHBs
  • Requirements to cover pre-existing conditions
  • Coverage for adult children up to age 26
  • Guaranteed availability and renewability of coverage
  • Nondiscrimination rules (on the basis of race, nationality, disability, age or sex)
  • Prohibition on health status underwriting
  • Similarly, the requirement to offer the EHB package for individual and small group plans also remains in place. In addition, age rating restrictions would also continue to apply, with the age ratio limit being revised to 5:1 (instead of 3:1), and states would be allowed to set their own limits.

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