House Republican leaders yesterday introduced legislation amending parts of the Affordable Care Act, a program of importance to real estate because many sales associates, as independent contractors, must provide for their own health insurance.
This legislation, which NAR is looking at closely, deals only with revenue-related matters and is expected to be supplemented by additional legislation later this year. The current piece is scheduled to be taken up in the relevant House committees this week and could be subject to change before it reaches the full House.
In one of the biggest changes, the bill would repeal the individual mandate, one of the most controversial aspects of the current program. It penalizes individuals who can afford to buy insurance but choose not to. Although there would be no penalty for not buying insurance under the change, the bill would impose a “continuous coverage incentive” by directing insurers to charge a 30-percent late enrollment surcharge to encourage individuals to maintain health insurance coverage, according to a summary provided by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The legislation would modify other aspects of the Affordable Care Act. For example, the legislation would continue to assist people who are struggling to pay their premiums but instead of basing the assistance solely on income, it would add a calculation based on age.
Several provisions are retained that would be of interest to real estate professionals, who tend to be older than the general population, with a median age in the mid-50s. These include prohibitions on insurers from denying coverage to people with a preexisting condition if they maintain continuous coverage and from capping the lifetime benefits a person can receive. And it continues to allow children to stay on parents’ coverage until 26.
In a change, the legislation would allow insurers to charge older people a premium that’s up to five times what they charge a younger person instead of capping that differential at three. It would also give states flexibility to set their own ratio, according to the Energy and Commerce summary. This would be a significant change, since under the Affordable Care Act, insurers can only charge a premium up to three times that of younger enrollees. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, some state laws allowed age rating bands of as much as 28:1.
Because the bill is limited to matters affecting revenue, many important aspects of the Affordable Care Act, including association health plans, aren’t addressed. These other aspects are expected to be addressed in separate legislation.
The current legislation could be taken up by the relevant committees as early as this week. The legislation would then go to the full House. Any bill passed by the House would have to be reconciled with any legislation passed in the Senate before any bill could go to the president for signature.
—Robert Freedman, REALTOR® Magazine