Obama administration officials fanned out across Capitol Hill last week to appear at hearings on the president’s fiscal 2016 budget request, which seeks funds for continued ACA implementation. Republican budget-writers are drafting their own spending plans and are expected to propose cuts in ACA funding and other changes to the law. Meanwhile, the IRS updated its flyer The Affordable Care Act: What employers need to know. At a Senate Finance Committee hearing, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell drew Republican fire for not answering questions about what contingency plans the agency may have in advance of a Supreme Court ruling in King v. Burwell that could end health insurance tax subsidies provided through federally run insurance exchanges.
Republican lawmakers advanced their own contingency plans with introduction of a broadly-sketched program to replace the ACA that would eliminate public exchanges and keep some of the law’s consumer protections, such as coverage for dependents up to age 26, guaranteed renewability of individual coverage, and a ban on lifetime dollar benefit limits. The plan would also cap the tax exclusion for employer-provided health care benefits and eliminate any individual or employer shared-responsibility requirements.
As the ACA’s second open-enrollment period ends on Sunday, February 15, sign-ups through the Healthcare.gov site are on track to meet the administration's goals, and many analysts expect to see a small surge this week ahead of the deadline. Last week’s breach of millions of Anthem customers’ information, however, is expected to increase policymakers’ focus on whether the government site is similarly vulnerable.