Late in the afternoon on Friday, December 14, Federal US District Judge Reed O’Connor struck down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in its entirety, a feat that was, for the past few years, unsuccessfully attempted by the Republican-led Congress. O’Connor reasoned that if the individual mandate is no longer valid, the entire ACA must also be scrapped, because the rest of the ACA is “inseverable” from the individual mandate. The opinion is likely to be appealed, and the final decision may ultimately lay with the US Supreme Court. Despite the ruling, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) has stated that the exchanges remain open and 2018 and 2019 coverage will not be impacted.

When passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), often called “Obamacare,” had three basic goals: increase access to health insurance, reduce costs and spending, and offer patients stability with respect to their insurance coverage. By offering a subsidy for low- and middle-income Americans to purchase private insurance plans, the ACA was successful in expanding coverage for about 14 million previously uninsured individuals, including those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Gary Scott Davis authored this bylined article about the future of the ACA. “We need to learn from both the strengths and weaknesses of the ACA to build a long-term sustainable approach that promotes access to care, brings insurance coverage within the reach of the many, contains costs, and aligns economic incentives among payors, providers and patients, while improving the nation’s overall level of health,” he wrote.

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The US Department of Labor published a final rule that makes it easier for a group or association of employers to act as a single “employer” sponsor of an Association Health Plan under ERISA. By creating an opportunity for small employers and self-employed individuals to take advantage of the economies of scale that are usually enjoyed by large employers, the final rule is intended to expand access to affordable health care.

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On January 22, 2018, Congress passed an interim funding bill to end the three-day government shutdown that also pushed back the effective date of the Affordable Care Act’s controversial “Cadillac Tax.”  The Cadillac Tax imposes an excise tax on group health plans that provide benefits in excess of certain thresholds.  The new legislation pushes the effective date back an additional two years to January 1, 2022.

The new tax reform legislation includes important changes to the tax treatment of employer-sponsored benefit programs, including transportation benefit programs and moving expense reimbursements. The law also creates a new tax credit for employers who provide paid family and medical leave to their employees.

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After spending a year on the brink of repeal, the Affordable Care Act is alive and well. ACA reporting is just around the corner, so join McDermott partners Judith Wethall and Finn Pressly for a refresher course on everything you need to know about the Forms 1094-C and 1095-C. The 45-minute conversation will also include up-to-the-minute updates on the government’s ACA enforcement activity, including a review of the IRS’s procedures for appealing employer mandate penalty assessments.

Register Here

Date
Friday December 1, 2017

Time
12:00 pm – 12:45 pm CDT
1:00 pm – 1:45 pm EDT

Mark your calendars for the first Friday of every month! McDermott’s Employee Benefits Group will be delivering timely topics in our “Fridays With Benefits” monthly webinar series.

The IRS has taken actions indicating that employer mandate penalties under the ACA are about to be enforced. The recently updated Questions and Answers on Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions Under the Affordable Care Act includes the section, “Making an Employer Shared Responsibility Payment,” which expands specifically upon the soon-to-be-issued Letter 226J and what that will include. Continue Reading.

Amy Gordon and Susan Nash were recognized as top authors by JD Supra’s 2017 Readers’ Choice Awards for their thought leadership pieces in the Defense & Space Industry and Affordable Care Act (ACA) categories. In addition, Amy’s article, along with Sarah Raaii and Jamie Weyeneth, “Recent Government-Issued FAQs Clarify ACA Employer Mandate, Market Reforms” was in the Top 5 Read Articles in 2016 in the ACA category.

JD Supra’s 2017 Readers’ Choice Awards recognizes firms and authors who achieved top visibility and engagement in the JD Supra platform over the past year. Spanning 25 industries and topics, one firm and 10 authors were recognized in each category for their consistently high readership and engagement for all of 2016.

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CMS recently released a final rule with the goal of stabilizing Exchange markets for 2018. The agency also issued several significant guidance documents where CMS extended the deadlines for 2018 rate and Exchange qualified health plan application submissions, adopted a good faith compliance standard for 2018 and delegated additional plan certification responsibilities to states. While these steps may provide some comfort for issuers, the agency did not address the most significant areas of issuer concern when it comes to 2018 Exchange participation. Namely, the Final Rule and guidance documents do not resolve ongoing uncertainty regarding cost-sharing reduction funding, the enforcement of the individual mandate or ongoing efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

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Late last week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to look into exempting religious employers from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive mandate. Qualifying religious employers (e.g. houses of worship) are already exempt from providing contraceptive coverage under their benefit plans, and an accommodation process is provided for certain non-profit employers and closely held for-profit employers with religious objections to providing contraceptive coverage.

This new executive order is aimed at organizations like universities and charities, including entities such as the plaintiffs in Zubik v. Burwell. Last year, in Zubik, the US Supreme Court failed to decide whether the contraceptive-coverage mandate requirements (Contraception Mandate) and its accommodation violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) by forcing religious non-profits to act in violation of their religious beliefs. Although the ACA regulations included an exemption from contraceptive coverage for the group health plans of religious employers, the exemption did not provide that such services would not be covered. The services are just not covered through a cost-sharing mechanism born by the religious employers. The Contraception Mandate requires these organizations to “facilitate” the provision of insurance coverage for contraceptive services that they oppose on religious grounds.  Many religious organizations were opposed to the requirement to facilitate, since they felt the requirement made them complicit in making contraception available, which violates their RFRA rights.