House Republicans on Monday released the legislative text of what will become their replacement for the Affordable Care Act, kicking off an obstacle course through legislative process on Capitol Hill.

Under the released draft, the penalty for the employer responsibility provisions is eliminated retroactively beginning with 2016, posing some confusion on whether the mandate is being enforced for 2016 during the current tax filing season and further undermining the stability of the individual insurance market going forward.

Although the legislation does not currently eliminate the ACA’s employer and insurer reporting requirements, Ann Bradshaw, a partner with Ernst & Young, says employers need to “stay the course” with current strategies as additional changes could come down the road.

House Speaker Paul Ryan
House Speaker Paul Ryan Bloomberg News

She adds that multi-state employers should remain even more vigilant. The bill aims to help states shape their own policies, which could mean additional state and city reporting requirements.

“You can’t repeal ACA through this process,” says Heather Meade, a principal at Ernst & Young’s Washington Council. Through this budget reconciliation process, Meade says, the bill can be passed with a simple majority but can only include provisions related to the budget.

The timing of the bill’s release is very important, Meade adds. Under house rules, lawmakers must provide 36 hours to view introduced legislative text. The Ways & Means and Energy and Commerce committees are already planning markup sessions for Wednesday morning.

“The markups are expected to be partisan,” she says. “We’re expecting Republicans to be committed to the bill and Democrats to be asking a lot of questions. And we do expect, despite all the noise, the bill will sail through the markup.”

The latest proposal also would delay the ACA’s Cadillac tax, a levy on the most generous employer-provided health plans, until 2025. It also retains the tax exclusion for premiums paid for employer-provided health plans.

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