Budget Deal Addresses Health Benefit Issues
The Congressional agreement that reopened the federal government for three weeks quietly addressed—at least temporarily—several high-profile issues affecting public and private health benefits. Most significantly, the new appropriations act:
Delays the effective date of the so-called Cadillac Tax by two years to 2022. This Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision imposes a 40 percent tax on employers for the value of health coverage that they provide above a specified dollar limit. The tax was originally scheduled to take effect this year, but was previously delayed by two years. Employers may take this delay into account in considering plan design changes and collective bargaining negotiations.
Delays implementation of the tax on medical devices by two years to 2020.
Delays implementation of the tax on health insurers by one year to 2020.
Reauthorizes the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years to 2024. CHIP provides health insurance coverage to children in low-income households through programs operated by the states. The program's funding technically expired as of October 1, 2017 (although measures have been taken to keep the program in operation since that time). The Act makes certain other changes to CHIP, as well.
The delay in the three taxes demonstrates how significant changes are being made to the ACA through a piecemeal approach in the wake of the failure by Congress to enact more comprehensive repeal and replace legislation. The temporary nature of these measures ensures that they will reemerge as issues in the future, although not nearly so soon as the need to revisit the federal budget.