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In the early morning hours of July 28, 2017, members of the U.S. Senate voted 49-51 to reject a “skinny” version of a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), called the Health Care Freedom Act (HCFA).
This was the final vote of the Senate’s 20-hour debate period, and effectively ends the Republicans’ current efforts to repeal and replace the ACA. However, the skinny repeal bill may be reintroduced at some point in the future.
Because the Senate was unable to pass any ACA repeal or replacement bill, the ACA remains current law, and employers must continue to comply with all applicable ACA provisions.
Following the vote, Senator McConnell indicated that Republicans now intend to focus on other legislative issues, although they remain committed to repealing the ACA. Despite this, the Senate may choose to reintroduce the HCFA, or pursue its own ACA repeal and replacement, at a future date.
The executive order does not require employers to take immediate action. However, employers should continue to monitor any developments that may affect their compliance with federal law in various areas, including banking, employment benefits, health, environmental protection, transportation and workplace safety.
The memorandum (memo) directs federal agencies to place a freeze on any rule, guidance or regulation that has not yet become effective as of Jan. 20, 2017. Specifically, the memo asks federal agencies to:
An exemption from this directive applies to any emergency situation and other urgent circumstances relating to health, safety, financial or national security matters. However, state agencies are required to notify the OMB director (Director) of any regulations that, in their view, should be exempt from this directive. The notification must also include the agency’s explanation for why an exemption should be allowed.
As mentioned above, the executive order requires federal agencies to identify two regulations for elimination for every regulation they propose to implement. However, the order allows for an exemption for any regulation that is related to military, national security and foreign affairs as well as regulations regarding agency organization, management and personnel.
The order also directs federal agencies to maintain a neutral budget expenditure, meaning that federal agencies will not be allowed to exceed their budgets for the cost of proposing, adopting, implementing, enforcing or repealing any regulation. To this end, federal agencies have been directed to offset the cost of any new regulations by eliminating the costs of existing regulations.
The key person for implementation of this order is the OMB Director. The order gives the Director a great deal of discretion to authorize additional exemptions and to define key terms such as “cost.” The Director has also been charged with the responsibility to issue guidance on the processes and standards the agencies will need to follow to comply with this order.
New administrations bring new challenges to the professional realm, and the Trump administration is no exception. Many of the former administration’s health care initiatives are being rolled back or halted. This leaves employers in an uncertain place in regard to compliance regulations and reform laws. This uncertainty comes in addition to the already complicated day-to-day tasks of an organization, leaving many feeling vulnerable.
The following are five important issues that should be closely monitored in 2017:
As history shows, when there’s an administration change, employee benefits change as well. There will certainly be new legislation in the coming months, as promised by President Trump. HR needs to lead the way in communication and make adjustments to adhere to any new requirements.
The aforementioned issues describe only a handful of the new HR changes that are forecast for 2017.