113th Congress, Vote 363; House of Representatives #2668
Fairness for American Families Act
Official Title: To delay the application of the individual health insurance mandate, to delay the application of the employer health insurance mandate, and for other purposes.
HR 2668: Fairness for American Families Act
Passed by the House January 8, 2015, 240-12 (5 abstaining).
Synopsis: The individual and employer mandates are a vital part of the ACA's multi-pronged approach to reducing the uninsured rate in the US. The law included a provision requiring almost all Americans to maintain health insurance coverage starting in 2014, along with a requirement that all businesses with at least 50 full-time equivalent employees offer coverage to their full-time (30+ hours) workers starting in 2014.
In both cases, there are financial penalties associated with non-compliance. In the case of the individual mandate, the penalties start out relatively small in 2014, but become more severe in subsequent years.
Republicans in Congress had long expressed dissatisfaction with the mandates, and had already introduced numerous bills to repeal, defund, or delay various aspects of the ACA, including the individual and employer mandates.
Then on July 2, 2013, the Obama Administration announced that the employer mandate would be delayed until 2015 (in February 2014, the Obama Administration issued another delay, this time pushing out the employer mandate until 2016 for employers with 50-99 employees). But no executive action was taken to delay the individual mandate.
Although Congressional Republicans wanted the mandate to be delayed, they bristled at the President's unilateral action, feeling that such a change should be authorized by Congress. Shortly after the Obama Administration announced that the employer mandate would be delayed, Representative Tim Griffin (R, Arkansas) introduced HR 2667, allowing Congress the chance to put their own stamp on legislation to delay the employer mandate.
In addition, Representative Todd young (R, Indiana) introduced HR 2668 on the same day. HR 2668 encompasses the same provisions as HR 2667, but also calls for delaying the individual mandate. Thus we're focusing here on HR 2668, as it's the more comprehensive bill.
HR 2668 calls for a one year delay of all aspects of the individual and employer mandates. In both cases, the mandates wouldn't be implemented until 2015, and in the case of the individual mandate, the increasing penalties scheduled for 2015 and 2016 would be delayed until 2016 and 2017. Under HR 2668, employer and insurance carrier reporting of coverage would also be delayed by one year, and would begin in 2015 instead of 2014.
Why supporters pushed for this bill
- Because the employer mandate had already been delayed by the Obama Administration when 2668 was introduced, many supporters focused on the fact that delaying the individual mandate would give individuals the same delay that businesses were getting, and would thus be the "fair" option.
- The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that HR 2668 would reduce federal budget deficits by $35 billion over the decade from 2014 to 2023. This is primarily due to a reduction in spending on Medicaid and exchange subsidies, since fewer people would enroll in coverage without a mandate.
- Many HR 2668 supporters view the individual and employer mandates as onerous burdens on citizens and businesses, and as an example of unnecessary government regulation. They see HR 2668's one-year delay as a step in the right direction.
- There were concerns in the summer of 2013 that the health insurance exchanges might not be ready to go in time for their October 2013 launch (in retrospect, this was correct, but the problems were rectified long before the end of the first open enrollment period). There were thus some worries that perhaps it would be difficult for people to enroll in coverage for 2014 and comply with the mandate.
Why opponents tried to stop the bill
- The CBO projected that if HR 2668 were to be enacted, there would be 11 million more people without health insurance in 2014 than there would be if the mandates were not delayed. They estimated that under HR 2668, the uninsured population would reach 55 million people in 2014, whereas it would otherwise be 44 million.
- HR 2668 opponents noted that the individual mandate is a crucial part of ensuring the success of the insurance exchanges and of bringing about a significant reduction in the uninsured rate. Delaying the individual mandate would just push those accomplishments out another year.
- Health insurance carriers in most states had already submitted their 2014 rates when HR 2668 was introduced in July 2013. Delaying the individual mandate would have a significant impact on the composition of insurance risk pools in 2014, and carriers wouldn't be able to account for that until it was time to set rates for 2015.
- The vast majority of employers with 50+ employees already offered health insurance coverage before the ACA was passed, as it is a vital tool that employers use to recruit and retain employees. So the Obama Administration's delay of the employer mandate is nowhere near as consequential as HR 2668 would be.
|07/17/2013||Status: House passed|
More: select a member to see his or her other key health care votes.
|Not Voting (8)|
|D||G. Negrete McLeod||CA|
|R||J. Herrera Beutler||WA|