Budget Showdown Sets Stage for Potential ACA Amendments

October 18, 2013

The Congressional debate over the government shutdown and debt ceiling included three potential Affordable Care Act amendments that are likely to be part of any future changes to the law and would have a significant impact on employers.  Although the final deal to reopen the federal government only included a provision requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to certify that there is a process in place to verify the income eligibility for people who receive exchange subsidies, the debate leading up to the final passage of the bill included proposals to:

  • Delay the $63 per covered life reinsurance fee employers must pay in 2015;
  • Change the definition of full-time employee to 40 hours per week; and
  • Repeal the medical device tax.
All three ACA amendments were mentioned in various media reports as being under consideration, but none were included in the final legislation that reopened the federal government this week.  Separately, the ACA’s current definition of full-time employees, those who work 30 hours or more per week, was the subject of a hearing in the House Small Business Committee's Subcommittee on Health and Technology, where support for increasing it was expressed by the ranking Democrat on the committee.  Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA) said: “It is important that we consider the [legislative] proposals to address these challenges and work to improve, rather than repeal [the law] . . . I am open, and the President, I believe, is open to making sensible improvements in the Affordable Care Act."  It is unlikely that any broader changes to the ACA will be made before the 2014 mid-term elections.