The House GOP plan to repeal and replace parts of the Affordable Care Act could make it easier for large, private-sector employers to reduce their health coverage for millions of workers around the country.
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the new American Health Care Act includes a last-minute amendment that allows states to obtain waivers from some Obamacare insurance regulations. That would allow insurers to escape mandates that cover 10 types of health services, such as maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health treatment and hospitalization, with the goal of reducing costs.
But according to the report, the amendment could affect the health plans offered by large employers. Obamacare established a national set of essential health benefits, but if that portion of the law is repealed, each state will have their own list of essential health benefits. According to the report, large companies would then have the ability to pick which state they want to base their plans on and, theoretically, cover less essential benefits in order to make plans cheaper.
Half the country gets its health insurance through employers and some experts believe it would weaken employer health plans.
However, others argued that there is nothing forcing companies to take aggressive steps to reduce their coverage, and that companies often boost their health coverage in order to attract employees.
"Many wouldn't," said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, when asked by the Journal if he thinks companies would cut benefits.
An aide on the House Energy and Commerce committee denied the report's characterization of what the AHCA bill would do.
"The waiver does not apply to the large group market," the aide said. "The MacArthur amendment explicitly allows states to seek a waiver for essential health benefits only for the individual and small group market, and it will have no effect on the large group (employer) market. Any ambiguity with 2011 guidance could be resolved by Secretary Price."