New Mercer health care reform survey findings formed a key focus of a March 16 Capitol Hill briefing on the ACA’s so-called Cadillac tax, which applies to high-cost employer health plans starting in 2018. Mercer's Tracy Watts outlined survey results on how many plans may be subject to the tax and what plan changes employers are making to try avoiding it. Rep. Frank Guinta, R-NH, urged support for a bill (HR 879) he is sponsoring that would repeal the tax, which he says could force many city and municipal governments to reduce benefits and/or shift costs to taxpayers.
Additional Mercer survey findings released last week -- "Health Care Reform Five Years In," showed virtually no change between 2014 and 2015 in the average percentage of all employees enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans. While there was a 1.6% increase in the absolute number of employees enrolled, that was the result of a 2.2% increase in the size of the workforce, rather than the changes required by the ACA.
Also last week the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sent for clearance to the Obama administration proposed rules addressing the interaction between the Americans with Disabilities Act and wellness incentives offered through group health plans. The EEOC enforces provisions of the ADA, including for employment-based health plans. Employers have been frustrated over the lack of guidance from the EEOC, especially in light of its recent lawsuits against wellness plan sponsors. These rules are expected to clarify the types of wellness program designs that comply with the ADA’s exception for “voluntary” wellness programs. Meanwhile, a House panel will soon a hearing to examine this issue and GOP legislation that would clarify that employers with HIPAA-compliant wellness plans can offer the higher incentives permitted by the ACA and request certain family medical information, without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.
The House and Senate this week are expected to approve Republican budget resolutions for fiscal 2016 that aim to repeal the ACA and reform Medicare and Medicaid. Budget resolutions are non-binding, however. To repeal the law, Congress would need to pass legislation, which isn’t likely given the narrowly divided Senate. Republican leaders are focused instead on readying a legislative response if the Supreme Court strikes down insurance subsidies provided through the federal exchange. The Court’s decision is expected in late June.