by Bernard D. Nomberg, Partner, The Nomberg Law Firm
The Nation has a new President, and now, is a step closer to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. We have all been on pins and needles anxiously awaiting to see how President Trump would proceed with the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, and the time has finally come. The House of Representatives, in a very narrow vote, approved legislation to repeal and replace significant portions of the Affordable Care Act. But what exactly does that mean and what can you expect with your healthcare moving forward?
Trump wasted no time in pushing the new healthcare legislation as the vote came on his 105th day in office. Some Republicans expressed concern, but ultimately the House bill was passed in a 217-213 vote.
Under the new bill, the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is rolled back and phased out. Medicaid is typically available to groups including qualified low-income families, pregnant women, children and the disabled. The ACA included Medicaid coverage to those over 65 who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level and gave states the option to choose to opt into the expansion. The new bill does not allow new enrollment under the expansion after Dec. 31, 2019. Additionally, states that have not opted in to the expansion by this date lose the opportunity.
Premiums will be 14-30% higher in 2018 and 2019, but will be much lower after that. Deductibles will also come down in the future. The House bill eliminates tax penalties for people without health insurance as well as penalties on employers with 50 or more full time workers who do not offer health insurance. In place of government subsidized insurance policies offered exclusively on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, the bill offers tax credits of $2,000-$4,000 a year starting in 2020 and dependent upon age. Families can receive up to $14,000 per year in credits and the credits would be reduced for those making over $75,000 a year and families making over $150,000. The bill will trim the budget deficit, but leaves 24 million Americans without health insurance.
HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNT
Health savings account limits are increased under the new bill: $6550 for individuals and $13,100 for families. In addition, health savings accounts can be used for over the counter drugs, which was previously only permitted under the ACA where individuals had a prescription.
States can roll back required coverage for maternity and emergency care and can seek waivers that would let insurers charge higher premiums for those with pre-existing conditions. Insurance companies are required to offer coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions, but there is a penalty for continuous coverage. They can charge 30% higher premiums for a year regardless of health status to those entering the individual market who did not have continue coverage of 63 days or more over the last twelve months.
The same essential health benefits under the ACA including maternity, prescription drugs, and mental health care will still have to be covered. State Medicaid Plans will not have to meet this requirement until after Dec. 31, 2019.
Under the new bill, funding to states for payments to a “prohibited entity” i.e. one that provides abortions other than those due to rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother is frozen for a year. This includes funding under Medicaid. What this means is Planned Parenthood can’t use federal money for abortions other than those of rape, incest, or risk to the mother’s life.
Those under 26 can still remain on their parent’s insurance under the new healthcare plan.
Overall, you can expect quite a bit of changes with the new healthcare plan. We are not in favor of the approved legislation that repealed and replaced the Affordable Care Act as we do not believe it benefits our clients. It is estimated that twenty-four million Americans will lose health insurance with the passage of this law. The bill did not have the support of hospitals, doctors and the insurance industry. Looking into our crystal ball, we do not think the Senate will vote to approve it. Stay informed and check to see if there are any changes directly affecting your healthcare.
 For more information, and to read the Bill, visit https://housegop.leadpages.co/healthcare/
Bernard D. Nomberg has practiced workers’ compensation law in Alabama for more than 20 years. Bernard has earned an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell’s peer-review rating. He has been selected a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers Magazine as well as a Top Rated Attorney by B-Metro Magazine.