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On June 26, the Senate released a draft health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). The Senate bill is a substitute amendment to the House-passed H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act, which was drafted under the budget reconciliation process and, therefore, amends mainly the tax provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill includes several provisions of interest to the HR profession and the workplace, including a reduction to the ACA's employer mandate penalty and a delay of the 40 percent "Cadillac tax" on high-value employer-sponsored health benefits, among other provisions. Read SHRM's analysis of the draft Senate health care bill. This draft bill is expected to change further as negotiations continue to find a compromise that could garner at least 50 votes in the Senate when it takes up the measure after the July 4th recess.
As we go to print, the fate of the bill remains uncertain as several Republican members have expressed concern over the draft bill. With 52 seats in the majority party, Senate leadership can only afford to lose two Republicans and would need Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie to move the bill out of the Senate.
While lawmakers left Washington, D.C., yesterday for the weeklong July 4th recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) hopes to strike a new deal on the text by COB today. With this new timeline, when lawmakers return to Washington in mid-July, the Senate will have about two weeks to consider and ultimately vote on a health care bill before the August recess.
SHRM will remain vigilant as Congress attempts to move the bill forward in July. To that end, as the Senate makes modifications to the health care proposal, SHRM will continue to urge lawmakers to do no harm to the employer system in any health care proposal that is introduced.
Meanwhile, other targeted health care reforms are underway in the U.S. House of Representatives. At the beginning of the year, House Speaker Paul Ryan outlined three steps Congress and the Trump administration will take to replace the ACA. One of the three steps included the consideration of stand-alone legislative proposals to address areas of the health care system that need reform.
On Wednesday, June 28, the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 218 to 210 H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act, a medical liability bill. The proposal limits noneconomic damages to $250,000, and it will be applicable to malpractice suits in which the plaintiff received health care provided under Medicare, Medicaid or private plans subsidized by the ACA. The bill also would govern litigation involving services paid for by employer-sponsored health plans, because of the preferential tax treatment of such health plans.
SHRM supports r medical liability reform to reduce health care costs and preserve access to medical care. As such, a coalition of employer groups including SHRM sent a letter of support for the Protecting Access to Care Act. The bill is designed to strike a balance between protecting patients harmed by medical malpractice and preventing unnecessary and costly litigation that contributes to rising health care costs.
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