With the increased popularity of the Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangement (ICHRA) among American businesses, there has certainly been an influx of marketplace applicants. President Biden is promising to enhance the marketplace, essentially transforming Obamacare into what they’re now calling Bidencare 2.0. As a business owner who might be already considering incorporating an ICHRA, or for those who already have ICHRAs in place, you may be wondering what the new administration plans to do regarding the ICHRA platforms. Will there be ongoing support, or should owners be worried about the future of ICHRA guidelines?
What We Know
Long before President Biden took office, he was on the campaign trail promoting his agenda for reforming the Affordable Care Act. In many ways, his plan incorporates improvements that allow for a broader eligibility guideline, making the marketplace health insurance options available to more Americans. But he also suggested undoing some of what the Trump administration had in the works. After a month or so in office, here’s what we know so far about Biden initiatives and changes for the ACA.
There have already been a few enhancements to the ACA since President Biden took office. For example, annual increases to hospitals under Medicare saw reductions. Medicare Advantage Plans were also reduced. With much of his plan still being discussed, President Biden did sign an executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of the Treasury to review all of the previous administration’s policies.
Part of President Biden’s executive order also initiated a special enrollment period for all Americans. Usually reserved only for those experiencing a qualifying life event, the special enrollment period is now open for those who may be experiencing hardships as a result of the pandemic. This window of opportunity is available through May 15, 2021. This presidential action also inspired many states to issue special enrollment periods of their own.
Bidencare 2.0 Plans
As part of what officials are calling Bidencare 2.0, there are provisions in the works tucked into the stimulus bill recently passed in Washington. The private plans will likely become more affordable. But largely, the upper and middle-class would see new eligibility for premium tax credits via the marketplace. Lower-income families would see increases in their subsidies.
What We’re Speculating
Aside from what changes have already taken place, many industry experts are expecting even more enhancements to come. Based on what President Biden’s plan details, we can try to predict what additional changes are on the horizon. Here’s what we’re speculating.
ICHRA Isn’t Going Anywhere
Throughout the various conversations and details regarding President Biden’s plans for the ACA, the ICHRA and other HRA variations have not been addressed specifically. However, considering these platforms continue to benefit employers large and small as a cost-effective method for employee health insurance, experts are predicting the ICHRA isn’t going anywhere. And since these HRA systems are designed to encourage employees to shop and buy insurance via the ACA marketplace and the state exchanges, they’re not expected to be targeted for changes.
Expansion of Cost Transparency
While the current administration is calling action to review the past administration’s changes, transparency efforts initiated by former President Trump will stay in place. Based on some sources, it seems the current health reform agenda includes protecting cost transparency guidelines. The objective will be to expand the nature of healthcare and health insurance cost transparency across the ACA ecosystem overall.
The Potential for a Public Option
There have also been open discussions around the potential for the Biden administration to introduce a public option variation into the exchanges. This is still in speculation mode, with plenty of unknowns as to how it may be implemented. However, the goal is to drive competition in the marketplace, driving down costs for the millions of Americans who buy insurance there. Doing so would provide any employees a cost incentive to opt into an ICHRA. Some are also suggesting that this public option initiative would have reimbursement models for healthcare providers and hospitals, as well.
What Employers Should Be Watching
As the current administration continues to unveil new plans, including ACA-specific enhancements, businesses should stay tuned. While some officials say the ICHRA options aren’t going anywhere, there could be benefits yet to come. With an eye on improving healthcare and the ACA, incentives, cost breaks, and new guidelines could make ICHRAs even more attractive to everyone.
More Consumer Reliance on Government
Like it or not, there may be a movement in which Americans become more reliant on the government for health insurance options. As the Biden administration continues to promise changes that only enhance the eligibility and cost benefits of the ACA, businesses can expect to see more people want those options. Considering many households continue to experience economic hardships in some way, the most affordable coverages may be found in the marketplace.
More Government Spending on Healthcare
While most new presidents talk about improving healthcare and the health insurance industry, there is reason to believe this administration means it. Because of the pandemic, health and wellness are the primary focus at the state and federal levels right now. With increased needs for vaccinations, screening, and contact tracing, comes a need for more money. To facilitate these, businesses can expect there to be more government spending and attention on healthcare.
A More Flexible Health Insurance Ecosystem
With more money and attention, the health insurance ecosystem will likely become more flexible. This can be game-changing for businesses looking to find benefits options that meet the stricter budget needs right now. It also means there could be customization and a departure from the one-size-fits-all model of leveraging the ACA.
If you still haven’t explored your ICHRA options, contact W3ll. We can walk you through the countless benefits already available to businesses like yours. It’s become a popular strategy for many companies and may be the ideal solution for you and your employees, as well. And from what we’re seeing so far from Washington, ICHRAs will likely still be a flexible option.