If you’ve been holding your breath and hoping that the government shutdown and debt ceiling negotiations would lead to the defunding or postponement of the Affordable Care Act, now’s the time to stop.
In a rare act of bipartisanship, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have agreed to a deal that would reopen the government until January 15th and extend the debt limit until February 7th. Importantly, the deal has very little impact on the implementation of the health reform legislation.
While this agreement isn’t really a victory for the country because it just kicks the can down the road a few months, it is significant because, before the next budget deadline hits, millions of Americans will have applied and qualified for generous government subsidies which will reduce the premiums they’ll pay for individual health insurance policies. The one minor tweak to the ACA is that individuals and families in all states will now have to verify their incomes before qualifying for the premium tax credits. This change was in response to a July announcement by HHS that states creating their own exchange could use the “honor system” when accepting subsidy applications.
So what does this mean for brokers? In short, it means full steam ahead. The individual mandate isn’t going away and neither are the subsidies, at least not as a result of this pending deal. It appears that the fall enrollment season will continue as anticipated – people can apply for qualified plans through the Healthcare.gov website or through a private exchange site like hundreds of brokers nationwide have set up through Health Partners America. And employers can move forward and make a decision about whether to offer or drop their group health coverage in 2014.
Many saw this government shutdown and debt ceiling debate as the last chance opponents of the Affordable Care Act had to impact the health reform legislation before the major provisions go into effect January 1st. With a “yes” vote expected this evening in the Senate and tonight in the House, not only will the government reopen and the country extend its ability to pay its bills, the most significant health insurance legislation in the last half-century, possibly ever, will survive its last great test.