COVID-19 Insurance Carrier Resources
At SDL + GHS, we understand that our clients are faced with numerous articles, news sources, and breaking news. The COVID19 virus is an ever-changing and evolving situation – and it is important that you maintain good resources for your information such as the Centers for Disease Control and your State Department of Health websites.
As an agency, our number one focus is to make it easy for you to find the resources that you need to access healthcare through your insurance program. Therefore, we have put a list of carriers that will bring you to your insurance carrier’s website and help with managing your policy.
Feel free to share this information, with family and loved ones. Our team at SDL + GHS and Senior Health Solutions will be available and we have contingencies in place to assist in managing your day to day needs as we all adapt to a temporary new norm.
Feel free to reach out to your SDL+ GHS representative, or me, with further questions.
Rob Bujan, Managing Director
SDL Brokerage – Group Health Solutions, Inc
Senior Health Solutions, LLC
Commercial Plans (Employer or Individual – NON-Medicare)
Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Connecticut
Anthem Blue Cross of California
Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts
Blue Shield of Northeastern New York
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas
Blue Shield of California
Emblem Health Plan
Geisinger Health Plan
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield NJ
Oscar Health Plans
United Healthcare & Oxford Health Plans
Individual Medicare Plans
Blue Shield Northeastern NY
Oxford Liberty Network CT
October 19, 2017
Please be advised that Oxford Health has changed its network coverage for CT under its Liberty Plan.
Effective 1/1/18 members of NY and NJ groups with a Liberty plan accessing care in Connecticut MUST use the Liberty network. Previously members were able to use the Freedom network in CT. Members should make arrangements and double check coverage with their providers before 1/1/18.
- The hospital network in CT is the same for Liberty and Freedom networks.
- The main medical group that is NOT participating in the CT Liberty network is Stamford Medical Group.
To locate participating health professionals in the Oxford Liberty network in CT, click here:
Please contact your SDL + GHS account representative with questions.
Group Health Solutions, Inc.
The American Health Care Act (AHCA) Passes the U.S. House
From CIGNA Informed on Reform
Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amended version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) by a vote of 217-213. House Republicans crafted the AHCA as a budget reconciliation bill to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill was previously debated on the House floor, but pulled before a full vote on March 24. Since that time, several amendments were added to the bill, paving the way for Republican leadership to reintroduce the bill for a successful vote.
Passage of the bill in the House marks a milestone in the Republican efforts to repeal and replace the ACA; however, the bill will face new challenges in the Senate. Here’s what we currently know — and don’t know — about the next steps to help you stay informed.
What’s Next: AHCA Moves to the U.S. Senate
Without bi-partisan support, Congressional Republicans cannot fully repeal the ACA in one action. By using the budget reconciliation process, only a simple majority (51 votes) is needed for passage in the Senate — and there are 52 Republican senators. Even with a Republican majority, the bill faces an unclear path forward.
The Republican leadership in the Senate will first need to decide if they want to consider and amend the House bill, or substitute their own version of a reconciliation bill, which may contain parts of the House bill.
Additionally, the Senate must follow procedural rules that don’t apply in the House. Under Senate reconciliation rules, the nonpartisan Senate Parliamentarian must first review and confirm the bill and any amendments comply with the rules for reconciliation, known as the Byrd Rule. For example, insurance market reforms that are currently in the AHCA may not be allowable under the Byrd Rule, if it is determined they don’t have direct spending impact.
The Parliamentarian’s analysis requires a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score (cost estimate). While the CBO scored an earlier version of the AHCA, the recent amendments require the CBO to update its cost estimate, meaning it could be a few weeks before the Senate can bring a bill to the floor for debate and an eventual vote.
Identical versions of the bill must pass both chambers before being signed by the President and becoming law. If the Senate passes a bill that isn’t identical to what the House passed, there are two paths forward: 1) the House could pass the Senate bill and send it to the President; or 2) a bicameral conference committee can meet to negotiate a new compromise bill. That negotiated bill would then have to be passed by both chambers, before sending it to the President for signature. It is unclear which option might be used in this instance.
Timing is unclear for these next steps to occur, but there continues to be support from the Administration to move forward with repeal and replace of the ACA this year.
Reminder: ACA Compliance is Required Until Official Guidance Otherwise
As a reminder, ACA compliance is required until official guidance to the contrary is issued. The House passage of the AHCA is the first of several required steps before any official changes are enacted. For a customized timeline and more information about ongoing annual responsibilities and applicable employer deadlines under the ACA, visit YourACARoadmap.com.
To stay up to date on the evolving state of health care reform, visit www.InformedOnReform.com, including the new Repeal and Replace Update webpage. This page offers a snapshot of the latest regulatory and legislative activity.
Final Regulations Issued for Individual Market Stabilization
Final Regulations Issued for Individual Market Stabilization
From NAHU April 14, 2017
Yesterday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the final market stability rule. The 139-page rule was largely unchanged from the proposal that was released in February and which NAHU submitted comments on in March. As proposed, the 2018 open enrollment period (OEP) will run from November 1, 2017, through December 15, 2017, which CMS has specifically designed to overlap with Medicare and most employer plan enrollments, even though NAHU has repeatedly noted the burden this places on agents. The rule also finalizes tighter restrictions on special enrollment period (SEP) eligibility, applies a more rigorous test for uses of the exceptional circumstances SEPs, and will now require these to be verified by supporting documentation.
Additionally, the final rule changes the actuarial value standard to allow a variation from -4 to +2 percentage points (except for bronze plans, which can vary -4 to +5 percentage points) and finalizes the proposal to rely on states for network adequacy reviews. It will reverse earlier guidance on the Essential Community Providers threshold requirement, and will now require that the network includes at least 20% as participating practitioners as it was for the 2014 plan year that was then increased to 30% for 2015. Finally, the rule will not impose continuous coverage requirements, such as imposing a 90-day waiting period, late enrollment penalty, or requiring 6-12 months of prior coverage; however, CMS will explore other policies to promote continuous coverage.
Notably, the rule did not address two critical issues that could have the greatest impact on the overall stability of the marketplace: whether the administration plans to fund the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payment program, and whether the administration will enforce the individual mandate. However, neither of those provisions were included in the proposed rule.
Change the 2018 OEP from November 1, 2017-January 31, 2018, to November 1-December 15, 2017.
Noted issues with the overlap of the proposed OEP with the Medicare annual enrollment period and the OEP for many employer-sponsored plans that operate on a calendar-year basis.
Requested that in future years there should be three distinct open-enrollment windows.
Requested that state-based exchanges and all off-exchange individual-market issuers be required to align with the federal individual-market open-enrollment dates.
No change from proposal; the OEP will run from November 1, 2017, through December 15, 2017.
CMS noted that this was purposely done to more closely align with Medicare and the private market.
State-based exchanges (SBEs) that can’t meet the new OEP will be allowed to supplement with a special enrollment period as a transitional measure.
All new marketplace consumers during a SEP must complete expanded pre-enrollment verification. Applications would be “pended” and not released to the issuer until eligibility is confirmed. Consumers would have 30 days to provide documentation.
Supported the proposal to require appropriate documentation prior to the effectuation of coverage and the proposed 30-day timeframe for document submission.
Requested better verification standards on involuntary loss of eligibility for minimum essential coverage (MEC), such as if an individual who previously had access to group coverage through an employer but chose not to enroll, and then lost such eligibility mid-year due to a discontinuation of the employer group plan.
No changes from proposal; consumers will have 30 days from the date of qualified health plan (QHP) selection to provide documentation; enrollment will be delayed or “pended” until verification of eligibility is completed.
100% of new consumers enrolling in marketplace coverage through SEPs will need to complete pre-enrollment verification.
Will not require SBEs to conduct pre-enrollment verification, but recommend that SBEs that do not currently conduct pre-enrollment verification follow this approach.
Will begin pre-enrollment verification for SEPs in June 2017.
Tightening of SEP eligibility requirements relative to people who have a previous history of nonpayment of premiums, documentation of a move, and gaining a SEP for a marriage.
Requested that CMS change the 90-day grace period for recipients of advanced premium tax credits (APTCs) to make past-due premium payments prior to their insurance being terminated to 30 days to reflect exiting state policies for other coverage, and to prevent the risk-pool instability that results when individuals sign up for coverage, receive care and incur claims but do not ultimately make premium payments.
Suggested clarification that all special-circumstance cases are to be routed through the appeals process, including individuals who cannot obtain official documentation and individuals whose ability to obtain the documents eclipsed the 30 days allowed by the proposed rule.
Noted that the additional verification criteria of newly married couples is a different verification standard than what is used in the private individual market or employer-sponsored plans and requested consistency across markets.
Does not address changing the grace period from 90-days to 30-days.
Allows issuers to reject an enrollment for a record of termination due to non-payment of premiums by the individual, unless the individual fulfills obligations for premiums due for previous coverage.
Allows issuers to apply a premium payment to an individual’s past debt owed for coverage within the prior 12 months before applying the payment toward a new enrollment.
Verification criteria for newly married couples will be more stringent for exchange coverage because of the differences in the markets and the impacts on the risk pool warrant an approach in the individual market that diverges from long-standing rules and norms in the group market.
Medical Loss Ratio (not addressed in the proposed rule).
Requested that CMS allow for health insurance agent and broker commissions, as well as issuer fraud-prevention measures, be exempted from an issuer’s MLR calculation.
Not addressed in the final rule.
Age-Rating Bands (not addressed in the proposed rule).
Requested administrative action to expand the current age rating bands of 3:1 in the individual and small-group markets.
Requested CMS to rescind planned changes to the age rating rules for children age 15 and older finalized in the Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2018 and instead maintain the existing age-rating structure for children.
Requested that CMS grant state-based age-rating variations to allow for the return of small-group composite rates and more state-based variations.
Not addressed in the final rule.
Grandmothered Plans (not addressed in the proposed rule).
Recommended that CMS formally state that the federal transition policy will remain in effect until further notice and will not be rescinded until ACA statutory improvements are signed into law and can be fully implemented.
Not addressed in the final rule although guidance was released from CMS granting states the ability to determine whether to allow grandmothered plans through 2018.
NAHU Washington Update
Congressional Republicans Continue Working on Possible Path Forward for Health Reform
Congressional Republicans Continue Working on Possible Path Forward for Health Reform
From NAHU Washington Update
As congressional groups met this week to work out their differences in the wake of the decision two weeks ago to scrap the American Health Care Act (AHCA), President Donald Trump made a late plea on Wednesday urging Congress to vote on a repeal of the ACA before they left town for their two-week Spring Recess. While Congress opted against voting again on the AHCA this week, they did pass a reinsurance amendment to the AHCA and a separate bill that re-affirms the purpose of stop-loss insurance. Congress is now back in district and is set to return the week of April 24, when they will quickly face a tight deadline to pass a new budget agreement by April 28 to prevent another government shutdown.
After being notified late Wednesday that it would be called into emergency action to consider an amendment to the AHCA, by Thursday afternoon the House Rules Committee voted 9-2 along party lines to add language to the reconciliation bill to create a $15 billion “Federal Invisible Risk Sharing Program” to help insurers cover the costs of their sickest enrollees. The amendment is sponsored by Representatives Gary Palmer (R-AL) and David Schweikert (R-AZ) from the House Freedom Caucus and is similar to the ACA’s temporary reinsurance program that expired at the end of 2016. This reinsurance program is separate from and would be in addition to the AHCA’s “Patient and State Stability Fund,” which is designed to expand coverage, increase insurance options, promote access to benefits, and reduce out-of-pocket spending through $10 billion in annual funding over 10 years.
The new reinsurance program would provide states with $15 billion in funding between 2018 and 2026 to reimburse insurers for high-cost plan enrollees. The program would not function as a traditional high-risk pool, as individuals would continue to buy coverage from the individual market, but if they have certain medical conditions, federal funding would cover their claims cost. This could help bring stability to the fragile market and reduce premiums for all consumers in the individual market. The amendment is short on specifics, including which medical conditions would be covered or how insurers would apply for reimbursement, and instead defers to the federal and state agencies to implement the program. It would also permit states to be able to take over the program in 2020, although there aren’t details on how that would work.
A study by Milliman and the Foundation for Government Accountability found that this amendment could help lower premiums by an average of 31% and result in 2 million fewer uninsured individuals . The study includes several assumptions on provisions that were not included in the amendment, including that the reinsurance would only cover claims that exceed $10,000, that the reimbursements would be made at Medicare rates and not those negotiated by the insurers, and that insurers would transfer the full premiums of these consumers directly to the government in exchange for the protections of the reinsurance program. An earlier version of the amendment included some of these details, but because the amendment that was ultimately passed opted to defer to rule makers to implement, it is unlikely that, should the AHCA be passed with this provision, that it would conform to the study’s assumptions.
Meanwhile, the House voted 400-16 on Wednesday to pass H.R. 1304, the Self-Insurance Protection Act. The bill is sponsored by Representative Phil Roe (R-TN) and clarifies that medical stop-loss insurance cannot be redefined as health insurance coverage at the federal level. The bill would change the federal definition of “health insurance coverage” to make these clarifications that stop-loss plans cannot be regulated as health insurance by amending sections of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Public Health Service Act, and the Internal Revenue Code. The Obama Administration had previously increased oversight of self-insured plans as small employers increasingly moved from the fully insured market to the self-insured market to avoid the ACA’s coverage requirements. H.R. 1304 now heads for consideration by the Senate where there is not a companion bill.
Throughout the week, congressional Republicans have been continuing their discussions over how to tackle health reform moving forward. There remains significant disagreements between members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus and the centrist-Republican Tuesday Group and by the end of the week both groups seemed to admit that there is still no clear path forward. Representative Chris Collins (R-NY), a member of the Tuesday Group, doubted that a deal would ever be possible, noting his discouragement with hard-liners for never being satisfied with the concessions they are given, “The Freedom Caucus continues to play Lucy with the football,” and that, “Nothing’s going to change and they’re not there now. What would get them there?”
Vice President Mike Pence led the White House’s efforts this week to bring the two factions together. However, each of the concessions that Pence tried to win the support of Freedom Caucus members were quickly panned by centrist and mainstream Republicans. This included a proposal that would allow states to opt-out of the ACA’s essential health benefits and community rating provisions. While there would still be a prohibition on excluding individuals with pre-existing conditions, this would allow insurers to charge them more for coverage.
This proposal was later pared down to just allowing states to opt-out of minimum health benefits and narrowly increasing flexibility with age-rating bands, which led to confusion and consternation among members of both groups, as Freedom Caucus members saw the proposal as falling far short of their requests while the Tuesday Group thought that the proposal went too far. This has led to blame being cast by members of both groups and outside organizations, including Heritage Action, which called out the moderate Republicans saying, “They’re opposed because they do not want to repeal Obamacare” and “They do not believe in the basic premises of the Republican party.” Meanwhile, Representative Collins of the Tuesday Group cast blame on House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), “I’ve been extremely unimpressed at this point with the job House leadership is doing.”
Following the proposal’s rejection, the White House’s discussions with Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McCarthy culminated in the demand for Congress to hold a vote on the bill before the two-week break and prompted the Rules Committee vote on the reinsurance amendment. While the House opted against holding a vote this week, just prior to leaving for the break, McCarthy claimed that members could be called back at some point during the recess to vote on a new healthcare package. But with a full calendar of items they must pass awaiting their return—including avoiding a government shutdown and re-authorization of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act—it is unlikely that repeal efforts will be seriously considered until May at the earliest, assuming Republicans determine there is any possibility for crafting a policy solution that will satisfy all constituencies of the party.
As Republicans continue to hash out these disagreements, the White House’s congressional liaison and the conservative-leaning Blue Dog Democrats held a meeting to discuss various issues where they could find agreement. President Trump previously noted that he may need Democratic support to push through his agenda items after Republicans have shown sharp policy disagreements. Yet, Democrats have also pushed back at the administration, including a score of Senate Democrats who called out Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price for sharing a list of proposed regulatory changes with House Republicans and not Democrats during negotiations over the AHCA, and requested that the administration provide those changes and to work with Democrats on improvements to the ACA.
Democrats have also been relaying their concerns with the White House over the ACA’s cost-sharing reduction subsidies, imploring the administration to continue challenging the House of Representative’s lawsuit on their validity. Nine Democratic senators sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week noting their critical importance to the stability of the marketplaces. In February, the administration was granted a 90-day postponement of the case to determine how to proceed with the case. A federal judge had previously ruled that the subsidies were invalid, and if the administration were to drop their challenge then the payments made by the government to insurers would cease, while insurers would still be required to provide the roughly $9 billion in combined annual subsidy payments to individuals, likely causing insurers to abandon the marketplaces and throw them into chaos.
Pulling the plug on Healthcare in the US – Dissecting the Regular Facts from the Alternative Facts
With all cards on the table, is this Pay or Play 2.0?
Where do we stand now?
New changes in the last 24 hours were made among them:
1. Repeal the 10 essential health benefits mandate (Conservative Caucus)
2. Add an addition $15B into a flexibility fund (for states to manage Medicaid) (Coverage Caucus – side note here – Senator Cassidy R-LA – who worked with Senator Collins R-ME on a separate bill is heading the coverage caucus as they are working to keep coverage in the Medicaid programs)
3. Keep the .9% Medicare tax for high-income earners making over $200,000 filing single for six more years – this would be to keep bringing in new revenue (This was originally in the bill to sunset as of 2018, then adjusted to sunset this year but looks to be sunsetted in 6 years)
What else did I miss?
Earlier this week, additional changes were made to the bill as it was attempted to garner enough votes to pass on the floor of the House. Most of these are changes in implementation dates to appeal to different parts of the House GOP.
1. Moving the repeal of the Tanning & Medical Device tax from 2018 to 2017
2. Moving the repeal of the business tax cap for executives in health insurance companies from 2018 to 2017
3. Sunset new Medicaid expansion for states that have not expanded from 2020 to 2017 (Kansas is currently trying to expand Medicaid as we speak)
4. NY Representatives add an amendment to move $2.3B Medicaid costs from local (county – excluding large metropolises like NYC) to the State Budget
5. Lower the medical expense deduction from 7.5% under the original bill now to a new low of 5.8% and to move up implementation from 2018 to 2017
6. Delay Cadillac tax from 2025 now pushed out to 2026
7. Repeal the maximums and over the counter medication bans on Flexible Spending Accounts from 2018 to 2017
8. Increase the HSA limits to maximum out of pocket costs from 2018 to 2017
What does this all mean? Well, to be absolutely frank – not much, if they don’t have the votes today. What does it mean in the future, though, EVERYTHING.
I don’t think you will find someone who doesn’t think we have work to do on the ACA. I am the first to say it. I also think that we have to get a bi-partisan committee to work together with consumer groups; AARP; AHIP; AHA; AMA and the healthcare consulting (i.e. the broker) community. We are in the battle on a daily basis. We know what can work and what should work and this needs to be done right and it needs to be done soon.
There are good ideas out there and we have to approach this on a more macro level and look at the outside forces that are affecting the current delivery system, i.e. lowering the cost of pharmaceuticals by introducing competition; providing incentives for smaller companies to do more development on generic alternatives; banning pharmaceutical companies from shelving generic patents when they become available; more efficient medical record data sharing; cutting out redundancy; providing affordable medical malpractice insurance programs to incent OBGYNs and other speciality providers who want to provide care but can’t afford the malpractice premiums; identifying high-cost chronic conditions and look at possibly pooling them into a national program such as Medicare, as we do with End Stage Renal Disease; providing TRANSPARENCY to the consumer by giving them the means to shop for a procedure with outcomes and cost as easily as they can today with houses; technology and cars; getting more funding and education to fight the opioid epidemic.
We cannot continue to kick the can down the road, adjust the programs to suit a small group of interest. The health of this country is at stake; the health of its citizens are at stake and millions of jobs are at stake. We need to pull this out of the halls of Congress and get the experts, who manage this, at the table now before it is too late.
There are solutions, there is a way – but we have to do this together with experts and support it as a country. This is one thing neither party should own but every party should want to see succeed.
Pulling the plug on Healthcare in the US – Dissecting the Regular Facts from the Alternative Facts
Dismantling the employer option . . . and then there were none
There is a well known English nursery rhyme by Mother Goose, about an egg that sat on a wall and had a great fall. All the king’s horses and the all king’s men could not put that poor egg back together again.
As we have been following the repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or aka – Obamacare, the elimination or capping of the employer tax-exclusion on employer sponsored benefit programs, has been brought up again. This idea has been floating around for the last couple of years as a way to increase revenue and now looked at as one potential revenue funding option in a replacement to the current Affordable Care Act (ACA).
So what is the employer tax – exclusion? Currently employees are NOT taxed on the employer paid portion of their benefits for income and payroll tax purposes. Under this new regulation, the employer paid portion of premiums could end up being considered taxable income. In addition, the employer could face higher FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) matches, which would be an added financial burden to the employer.
FICA is made up of the employer and employee both contributing equal shares of Social Security Tax (6.2%); Medicare Tax (1.45%) for a total of 12.4% and 2.9% respectively. Currently there is a cap on Social Security, so once you have paid this tax on $127,200, you no longer pay the 6.2% Social Security tax. You can find more information on this and additional taxes HERE.
We are sitting in a precarious situation if we start to look changing or altering the current employer model, as part of the repeal and replace. The Kaiser Foundation has data showing 156 million Americans covered through employer based plans through the end of 2015. As of 2017, approximately 175 million Americans receive healthcare through the employer based model.
Remember the risk pools? The employer based market is heavily involved in helping to balance risk pools by spreading out the costs of the healthy and unhealthy covered employees.
If the employer has no incentive to offer these benefits to their employees, or they end up costing both the employee and the employer more money, the employer could easily have their employees go to the individual marketplace to purchase their coverage by offering a salary increase to the employee to offset some of the costs. This would mean higher income taxes to the employee. The costs in the individual market are higher; the choices are lower and employees would lose the benefit of having their employer advocate in coverage disputes.
If Congress decided, instead, to cap the employer-tax exclusion, this would in turn, cause the employer to look at providing less rich benefit to employees, to stay underneath the maximum premium cap so not to trigger a tax. This would push employees to higher out of pocket costs and possibly shift the cost of the premium from the employer to the employee at a faster rate then we are seeing today.
The employer-sponsored health insurance is a valuable benefit and a keystone to the American worker and a financial foundation for the healthcare system today. If we attempt to upset this model, while undergoing additional repeal and replacement options, we run the risk of the entire system breaking, just like that egg. And there is not a king nor a horse strong or powerful enough to be able to pick it up, once the system has fallen off the wall.
10 Things to Know About New York State Paid Family Leave
10 Things To Know About New York State Paid Family Leave
Paid Family Leave is coming to New York in 2018. ShelterPoint Life has put together a great 10 point overview:
1 – PFL is available for the following qualifying events: Having a child, adopting or fostering a child, caring for a sick family member, or caring for a family member after a qualifying military leave event.
2 – When returning from PFL, you are entitled to return to your same or comparable position without loss of benefits you would have accrued otherwise.
3 – Even new Dads will be able to use it! PFL’s bonding benefit is for both men and women.
4 – If you’re having (or adopting) a baby in 2017, you can still take some bonding time after PFL goes into effect next year.
5 – Most employees in New York will get it.
6 – If you already have health insurance through your employer, they will maintain your health insurance coverage for the duration of the time you’re away from work.
7 – PFL will benefit employees at organizations of all sizes, not just organizations with more than 50 employees, as FMLA does.
8 – Once in effect, New York will have one of the most comprehensive family leave programs in the nation.
9 – The first year PFL is in effect (2018), you can take up to eight weeks of paid time off with 50% compensation of your salary up to 50% of the state’s average weekly wage.
10 – The benefit increases every year for the first 4 years
Republicans Face Dilemma on Timing of Health-Law Replacement
Do they act before or after the 2018 midterm elections? Either choice carries political risks
The Wall Street Journal
By Stephanie Armour and Kristina Peterson
Dec. 9, 2016 7:00 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON—Republicans united in their desire to overturn the Affordable Care Act are divided over whether to replace it before or after the 2018 elections, a choice that holds political peril either way.
Waiting until after the midterms could pose a political risk to the most conservative Republicans who campaigned on the repeal and whose constituents want the law to be gone as quickly as possible.
But passing a hastily-written replacement for the complex law could create chaos in markets and leave millions without health insurance. Some Senate Republicans believe putting a new system in place could take until 2019 or longer.
Along with likely legislative action by Republicans in January to dismantle parts of the ACA, President-elect Donald Trump is expected to take executive action that would weaken parts of the law. House Republicans also are likely to seek to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Midterm elections tend to disfavor the party that controls the White House, and Republicans are aware of the drubbing Democrats took in 2010, after they enacted the law with almost no Republican support.
“One of the lessons we learned from Obamacare is that partisan legislation is not sustainable and what we need to do is go back to the old-fashioned way” of reaching bipartisan consensus, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R., Texas) said this week.
A transition period would be aimed at preserving health insurance for the roughly nine million consumers who get tax credits to offset premiums. “There needs to be a reasonable transition period,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) said Thursday. “It’s just premature to suggest that we know exactly how long this transition will last.”
Some House Republicans insist a replacement can be done in two years or less. Their calculus is that getting rid of the law early in 2017 with a short or no transition period would force action on its replacement. “The only way this gets done is if our backs are against the wall,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.), chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus.
Senate Republicans have indicated they want Democratic buy-in for their health-care overhaul. Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) said “three years would be better” for a transition, but acknowledged there is pressure from the House to move faster.
If House Republicans who want a speedier replacement defect, the House could lack enough votes to push through a three-year replacement plan. The clash also reflects the difficult path ahead for Mr. Ryan, who wants to keep the GOP united in its repeal and replacement plan.
“This election showed that people want things done now,” said Rep. Roger Williams (R., Texas). “People in America deal in real time and they want real-time solutions.”
Democratic leaders have signaled they are unlikely to cooperate, at least in the initial repeal phase, while some in the party up for re-election in 2018 in conservative-leaning states may feel pressure to fill the void if the law has been repealed.
“They have nothing to put in its place, and believe me, just repealing Obamacare even though they have nothing to put in its place and saying they’ll do it sometime down the road will cause huge calamity from one end of American to the other,” said Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, the next Democratic leader.
Each party will face political headwinds going into the 2018 midterms. Senate Democrats will be defending 25 of 33 seats in play, putting them at a disadvantage.
But Republicans will have political ownership of the health-care law at a time it is likely to still be in flux—and possibly in turmoil. And because they will control Congress and the White House, any voter angst could favor the Democrats in a sort of reverse dynamic of 2010
Senate Republican Leaders Vow to Begin Repeal of Health Law Next Month
THE NEW YORK TIMES
By ROBERT PEAR
DEC. 6, 2016
WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders, after meeting with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, said on Tuesday that they would move immediately next month to start repealing the Affordable Care Act, despite qualms among some of their members.
“The Obamacare repeal resolution will be the first item up in the new year,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and majority leader.
Republicans have not fleshed out a plan to replace the 2010 health care law, President Obama’s signature legislative achievement. But on Tuesday they laid out their principles for a replacement plan and said they would try to minimize disruption for the 20 million people who have gained coverage under the law.
Senate Republican leaders appeared to agree with House Republican leaders on a “repeal and delay” strategy, which could keep parts of the health law in place for several years, as Congress works with the administration of Donald J. Trump to devise a replacement.
The Senate Republican strategy would start the repeal process in early January and could defer the effective date for several years, but not all party members were on board.
“They have to be done together,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, referring to efforts to repeal and replace the health law. “We don’t want to have people left out.”
Democrats vowed to fight for preservation of the health law, on which public opinion has been deeply divided for six years.
“Bring it on!” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the next Democratic leader, said to Republicans. “Just repealing Obamacare, even though they have nothing to put in its place, and saying they’ll do it sometime down the road will cause huge calamity from one end of America to the other.”
Many health policy experts say the law has been beneficial. But Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Senate Republican, said: “It’s well documented, everybody agrees, both Republicans and Democrats, that Obamacare has serious problems. I would say it’s been a failure, and I think the American people agree.”
After repealing the law, Mr. Thune said, Republicans will proceed step by step to develop a replacement, built around four principles: States, not the federal government, should have the primary responsibility for health policy. Patients and doctors should be “in control.” There should be more competition among health plans, so consumers would have more choices. And small businesses should have more discretion and flexibility to configure health benefits for their employees.
After their lunch on Tuesday with Mr. Pence, many Senate Republicans were energized. After the inauguration of Mr. Trump, the schedule will be “very aggressive,” said Senator Michael Rounds, Republican of South Dakota.
But other Republican senators were still mulling their strategy.
Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, suggested that it might make sense to repeal and replace the heath law at the same time, and that there could be pitfalls in deferring a replacement for several years.
“People are trying to figure out the best route,” Mr. Corker said. “It’s not really repeal if it’s still in place for three years.”
Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, a member of the Senate Republican leadership, said Congress would need time to develop a replacement.
“Health care has been driven into the ditch by President Obama and this health care law,” Mr. Barrasso said. “It will take time to get the cart out of the ditch.”
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said she supported efforts to repeal and replace the health law, but not Republican efforts to cut off federal funds for Planned Parenthood clinics. Last December, she voted against a budget bill that would have repealed major provisions of the health law because it would also have terminated funds for Planned Parenthood.
“Under the incoming administration, Republicans and Democrats will have a new opportunity to fix Obamacare, and there is a lot to fix,” Ms. Collins said on Tuesday, noting that premiums for health plans on the exchange in her state were increasing an average of 22 percent next year.