As he promised, President Trump is continuing to demonstrate his commitment to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Shortly after his inauguration on January 20, 2017, one of President Trump’s first acts as president was signing an executive order, Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal.
What does this exactly mean? Simply put, this executive order instructs federal agencies to ease regulatory burdens caused by the ACA. What is not so simple is determining its implications. The text of the executive order directs all federal agencies to:
Exercise all authority and discretion to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the ACA that would impose a fiscal burden on any state, or cost a fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, health care providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of health care services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.
Note that while employers are not specifically listed in the above, one could argue an employer falls under “purchasers of health insurance”.
But, what does this really mean for employers? The executive order, without more information guided by federal agencies, does not give specific direction. Given that there are several Cabinet members yet to be confirmed, it is anticipated that there will be delay in information directly from federal agencies. A memo from President Trump’s Chief of Staff was also sent out effectively putting a freeze on all agencies until confirmation of presidential appointments.
With the lack of clarity, cautious employers should comply with the ACA while waiting for further confirmation from federal agencies on how this executive order will impact those regulations that they are in the process of complying with (such as ACA reporting). At this point, we remain with a watchful eye until more information is available.