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Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona)
In the early hours of July 28, Republicans' last-ditch effort to pass a "skinny repeal" bill that would have eliminated penalties under the Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) individual and employer mandates was defeated by a vote of 49 to 51. The three Senate Republicans voting against the bill were Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and, in a dramatic vote, John McCain (R-Ariz.). The defeat leaves in place the ACA's wide-ranging obligations for employers with 50 or more full-time employees or equivalents to provide ACA-compliant health coverage to employees who work at least 30 hours per week, and to track and report all employee hours to the IRS, along with other administrative requirements.
What's Next for Employers?
With the Republicans' failure to pass a bill to repeal and replace the ACA, employers should plan to remain compliant with all ACA employee health coverage and annual notification and information reporting obligations. Even so, advocates for easing the ACA's financial and administrative burdens on employers are hopeful that at least a few of the reforms they've been seeking will resurface in the future, either in narrowly tailored stand-alone legislation or added to a bipartisan measure to stabilize the ACA's public exchanges. (SHRM Online)
HHS Regulatory Efforts to Continue
Some administrative changes are likely as well, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price signaled after the Senate vote. "Since day one of the Trump Administration, the team at HHS has taken numerous steps to provide relief to Americans who are reeling from the status quo, and this effort will continue," he said. (Washington Examiner)
What's Next for Congress?
Senators walking off the floor around 2 a.m. Friday after the defeat of the latest GOP repeal effort face tough questions on how to move forward. Some members of Congress said the failure could lead to compromise or bipartisan work on health care, while others said they hoped it would lead leaders to start a more formal process of committee work after months on Senate bills being drawn up behind closed doors. "We're not adverse to that," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the No. 3 Republican leader. "I just don't have high hopes that we're going to get anything that really solves the problems that we think exist with ObamaCare today." (The Hill)
An Uncertain Legislative Future
Shortly after the vote, President Donald Trump responded with a tweet: "3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!" But senators in both parties said they are ready to quickly launch work on a new plan. "Maybe this had to happen to actually begin to have a conversation," said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who had tried and failed to broker a previous bipartisan compromise. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee that under normal circumstances would play a central role in crafting a new health-care bill, said Friday's setback "leaves an urgent problem that I am committed to addressing." Democrats said they hoped any new attempt to shore up the health-care system would begin in the Senate HELP Committee, considered a bipartisan bright spot in the Senate, given that it wrote a bipartisan education reform bill that passed last year. (Washington Post)
[SHRM members-only HR Q&A: How has the Affordable Care Act affected employers that use part-time employees?]
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