Stay the course: Why you should stop waiting for ACA repeal

While Republican lawmakers are united in their desire to reform health care, the death of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) means it’s back to the drawing board for ACA repeal. Talk of starting over has been circulating on Capitol Hill, but a new replacement plan has not been proposed yet. Overall, it’s causing a lot of confusion for lawmakers, business owners, and American citizens alike.

However, one thing is certain: You should stop waiting around for ACA repeal. Even if it’s sure to come, working on the expectation that compliance isn’t necessary will only damage your business in the long run.

Let’s take a look at what we know.

1.       2016 reporting deadline is today

ACA reporting season is just about over. The distribution deadline for 1095-Cs passed on March 2, and e-filing with the IRS should be completed today.

No matter what new health care bill may be proposed, this reporting season will certainly be over before it even makes it through even one chamber of Congress. This means that you’ll still be liable for ACA fines and penalties related to reporting for 2016—even if lawmakers are actively trying to repeal it.

2.       Total repeal could take longer than you think

Even beyond this current reporting season, it’s important to keep your information in good order. After the introduction of the AHCA, Republicans found themselves split on what they wanted to see added to or removed from the bill. Some wanted to keep more of the ACA, and some wanted to keep less.

After last week’s no-vote on the AHCA, the future of health care reform is more uncertain than ever. Lawmakers may still choose to go another route, repealing the current law first, then replacing it with something after they get a stronger footing. What this means is that all the rules and regulations of the ACA would still be in place until Congress can come up with a solid replacement and slowly roll it out. This could mean that ACA reporting continues for another year or two.

Even if a new bill is proposed, many pieces of the legislation probably won’t kick in until 2018 or 2020, leaving time to phase out benefits, taxes, and regulations. Whatever the case, making bills into law—especially with the complications attached to the ACA—takes time. Even if Republicans come up with a perfect, passable health care plan tomorrow, perfecting it, voting it through both houses, and getting it in front of President Trump could take a while. And the ACA will be active law until all the pieces fall into place.

3.       Replace could still mean reporting

The recent repeal and replace bill essentially eliminated the employer mandate—but not reporting. Though this bill never reached a vote, key components may be kept in the next proposal.

Trump has insisted that he wants “insurance for everyone”—something that is difficult to track without reporting. Even if the standards change, some kind of reporting requirement seems almost inevitable.

It’s also likely that many of the topics reported now (number of full-time employees, offers of insurance, the affordability of said insurance) will also be reported under the new law. If you’re waiting for repeal, you may lose track of this data—only to find out that you need it for whatever comes next.

Putting it all together

All in all, “better safe than sorry” is the mantra businesses should take during the ACA repeal process.

While the ACA replacement could take many forms, the safest action right now is to proceed as normal. Legislation can be difficult and finicky, lawmakers are split on how to proceed, and until a new bill actually becomes law, the rules of the old one still stand.

Don’t get caught up in hoping for a repeal plan that eliminates your need to report, only to find out nothing has changed. Continuing with the compliance process now will ensure you’re prepared for whatever comes next.