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Executive order means few changes for businesses

Published on February 14th, 2017 by Triton Benefits & HR Solutions

Shortly after taking the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order asking his administration to take steps toward dismantling the Affordable Care Act. While the order makes Trump's intent clear, it does not repeal the ACA, commonly referred to as Obamacare. For that to occur, Congress will have to take action. 

What the order means
The order specifically calls on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to grant waivers or delay implementation of the policies that would "impose a fiscal burden" on states, insurers, families, etc. In essence, the measure is designed to relieve restrictions currently in place. The language might sound vague, but it has real-world results. For instance, a person who didn't have insurance for longer than three months would, under the ACA, be required to pay a fine. That fee might be waived for individuals who are homeless or meet other requirements. Under Trump's order, however, administrators could grant that exception to more individuals. What's more, experts predict lawsuits filed against the ACA could be wrapped up more quickly.

Those covered through the ACA will continue to have insurance throughout 2017 even if Obamacare is eventually repealed – this year's health care contracts are already signed. What's more, with just an executive order in place, consumers will still get subsidies. 

Hand using pen to sign paper.Companies should keep following guidelines set by the Affordable Care Act despite President Trump's executive order.

The order and businesses
According to CNN money, the ACA penalized businesses that gave employees money to buy their own health insurance rather than providing it. Trump's order may mean those fines not always enforced. However, if your company does provide group insurance, you'll want to follow the laws put in place by the ACA for the time being. Changing the law will take time, and an executive order isn't enough to dismantle processes already in place. That means providing employees and the government with coverage statements during tax season and being prepared for U.S. Department of Labor audits. 

What's to come
Some legislators aren't waiting for repeal measures. According to Fox News, a group of Republicans have proposed a bill, named the Patient Freedom Act, that would let individual states decide whether to continue using the ACA or provide a replacement version. The proposal also would let companies decide whether to insure staff and let people stay on their parent's insurance until age 26 (just as the ACA does). The bill lives somewhere in between Democrat's desire for a stronger ACA and Republican's call to remove universal health entirely.

Other discussions include implementing health savings accounts. Essentially, Fox Business explains, HSAs are accounts employees pay into that they can use to cover health care costs. Of course, they come with other features; they're tax-free, have lower premiums balanced by high deductibles, stay with you when you change jobs and more.