The year in review: How the ACA fared in 2018

From a proposal to expand mandatory e-filings to numerous legislative activities, 2018 brought in a storm of Affordable Care Act (ACA) confusion for employers, their trusted advisors, and the American public. Several new rules impacted provisions of the health law, both for individuals and employers, and the midterm elections put the ACA back in the spotlight.

As we approach 2019, we’re summing up this year’s ACA news and changes by looking back at a few key numbers and dates for the health law.

6,015: The number of employers who received an ACA penalty letter. Throughout 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) continued to issue penalties to employers that did not meet the requirements for ACA compliance, and this number is expected to rise in the upcoming year. From an employer standpoint, this was one of the most impactful ACA-related activities in 2018, and many struggled to draft appropriate responses to penalty Letter 226-J.

$4,490,000,000: The potential amount of ACA penalties to be issued to employers. This year, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) issued a report identifying the substantial cost of ACA penalties for tax year 2015. The IRS is still sending penalty letters to businesses that violated the law in 2015, but it has also started sending out Letter 226-J for 2016. Every year, the cost of noncompliance has risen for employers.

8,500,000: How many people enrolled in ACA plans for 2019 through the individual market so far. While the number looks impressive, ACA sign-ups decreased by 4 percent year-over-year as changes made by the Trump administration to scale back the health care law took hold and legal challenges made many question the fate of the ACA.

$3,000,000: The amount the IRS invested to ensure its e-filing technology doesn’t issue more false positives. After an in-depth audit by the Treasury revealing the IRS missed out on collecting $133 million in Employer Shared Responsibility Payments for 2015 violations due to problems with paper filings, the IRS invested millions into system improvements.

32: The number of days the deadline was extended for employers to deliver their 1095 forms to employees. While there’s more time to distribute the forms, employers don’t have an extension on either paper or electronic filing deadlines for 2018 coverage, and there likely won’t be additional extensions.

364: How many days short-term, limited-duration health plans can now last, up from 90 days. A new 2018 rule finalized the definition of these health care plans, making them more attractive to young, healthy individuals, and it might be one reason why open enrollment didn’t reach as many signups as last year. This was a major change in the health care marketplace for 2018, and we can only guess how health plans might again transform in 2019. The best advice we can give is to keep an eye on the news and recognize that while health plans might be changing, the core of the ACA remains, and it will likely stay as Democrats take over the House.

2,500,000: The total number of forms SyncStream helped file for employers after the third year of ACA reporting. We’re proud of the work our partners have done to comply with the ACA this year despite the legislative disputes and media hype. Our work to educate brokers, advisors, and employers alike on this ever-changing law continues into 2019 and beyond. The ACA is here to stay, and we look forward to supporting even more employers and brokers in their compliance efforts next year.