ObamaCare repeal bill could affect employer health plans: report

The GOP plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare could remove protections for people who get health insurance through their employers, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

A provision in the revised plan — which is expected to get a House vote on Thursday — allows states to get waivers for some ObamaCare insurance regulations. This includes the "essential health benefit" standards.

The ObamaCare regulations allow large employers to pick what state's essential health benefits standards they abide by. Because the legislation created a national standard of essential benefits, though, that provision has mostly been meaningless.

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Under the new GOP bill, however, if a state applied and received a waiver and could set its own essential health benefits, a large employer in any state would be able to change its plans to abide by those requirements, potentially cutting costs.

If a large employer chose the benefit requirements in a waiver state, they could be able to impose lifetime limits on healthcare costs and eliminate out-of-pocket caps from their plans, for example.

“It’s huge,” Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under former President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaWhite House to share info on ethics waivers White House considering vetting Trump’s tweets: report Clinton knocks Trump inauguration crowd size claims MORE, told the Journal. “They’re creating a backdoor way to gut employer plans, too.”

Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, raised another question.

“The real question is, would employers do this? Many wouldn’t,” Levitt said. “Many employers offer quality benefits to attract employees. But employers are always looking for ways to lower costs.”  

The GOP healthcare bill gained new momentum on Wednesday, after Republican Reps. Fred Upton (Mich.) and Billy Long (Mo.) said they would support the bill after a new amendment from Upton.  

The amendment released Wednesday night listed as co-sponsors four lawmakers who were either undecided or had previously planned to vote no on the bill.