It now appears that the March 23, 2010 White House signing ceremony marked the beginning — not the end — of debate on healthcare reform. Republicans seem determined to use their new majority to change what they perceive to have been the catalyst for their Election Day victories — the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Last week the US House of Representatives approved legislation to repeal President Obama’s signature healthcare reform law.

Democrats still control the U.S. Senate, so House-passed repeal legislation is not likely to become law. But the repeal vote is likely the beginning of a multi-year process to amend the 2010 law and forge a long-elusive bipartisan consensus.

From an employer perspective, this week’s House vote and the score of pending amendments offer little respite from their biggest single problem with healthcare reform: almost infinite uncertainty. Fundamentally, no one knows how healthcare reform ultimately will affect employer-sponsored health benefits. Health costs have been soaring for a decade or more and it’s possible that healthcare reform will actually accelerate these costs. Read more.

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What’s next for health care reform legislation?

Tue Jan 25, 2011

It now appears that the March 23, 2010 White House signing ceremony marked the beginning — not the end — of debate on healthcare reform. Republicans seem determined to use their new majority to change what they perceive to have been the catalyst for their Election Day victories — the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Last week the US House of Representatives approved legislation to repeal President Obama’s signature healthcare reform law.

Democrats still control the U.S. Senate, so House-passed repeal legislation is not likely to become law. But the repeal vote is likely the beginning of a multi-year process to amend the 2010 law and forge a long-elusive bipartisan consensus.

From an employer perspective, this week’s House vote and the score of pending amendments offer little respite from their biggest single problem with healthcare reform: almost infinite uncertainty. Fundamentally, no one knows how healthcare reform ultimately will affect employer-sponsored health benefits. Health costs have been soaring for a decade or more and it’s possible that healthcare reform will actually accelerate these costs.

Plan mandates, including the age-26 coverage requirement, auto-enrollment, preventive care without cost-sharing, the definition of essential health benefits, employer “play or pay” and Forms 1099 and W-2 reporting, all will require volumes of clarifying regulations.

The employer compliance burden associated with new mandates, reporting requirements and additional taxes could prove to be the equivalent of FMLA, COBRA and ERISA combined! The new 40% excise tax on so-called “Cadillac” health plans, slated for 2018, will force employers to make dramatic changes in employee health benefits to avoid the burden of new taxes.

Visit next week for my predictions on how PPACA opponents will apply a “3D” strategy to de-fund, delay and dismantle last year’s health care reform legislation.