The future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is front and center again due to a federal district court ruling last week that struck down the law as unconstitutional. The ruling provided that because Congress eliminated the individual mandate penalty beginning in 2019, the ACA is no longer constitutional. However, the decision is expected to be swiftly appealed and, in the meantime, pending further legal developments, the ACA remains fully in effect.
No Impact on ACA Because the ruling is a declaratory judgment and not an injunction, the ruling has no immediate impact. The ACA will continue to be administered and enforced as it was before the court issued its decision, and the decision does not require any changes to enforcement of any portion of the ACA at this time. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a statement to that effect on December 17. Thus, the ACA’s insurance access, coverage and reporting requirements, and protection for individuals with preexisting conditions remain active and enforceable.
Next Steps This latest case will almost certainly be appealed and ultimately the case is likely to go before the Supreme Court. This would be the third time the Supreme Court would rule on a constitutional question related to the ACA. In addition to upholding the law in 2012, the Supreme Court rejected another challenge to the law in 2015. As we now move into 2019, it seems likely Congress will once again be debating the constitutionality of the ACA rather than focusing on a debate about expanding Medicare for all.
Since the case will apparently be appealed, there is no immediate impact expected for employers and plan sponsors. We do expect the case will have a high profile, and depending on the eventual outcome, it could mean that the ACA excise tax on employer plans and the reporting and record-keeping requirements could be eliminated in the future. We are monitoring this case and the next steps closely and we’ll provide updates as warranted. Please contact your Conner Strong & Buckelew account representative toll free at 1-877-861-3220 with any questions. For a complete list of Legislative Updates issued by Conner Strong & Buckelew, visit our online Resource Center.