The GOP healthcare bill could wreak havoc on employer insurance due to an obscure provision of Obamacare

Barack Obama Paul RyanGetty

Last-minute changes to the proposed Republican overhaul of the US
healthcare system may not be limited to the individual insurance
market, according to a new report.

An analysis from the
Wall Street Journal’s Stephanie Armour
found that a provision in a recent amendment of the
American Health Care Act could allow employers to gut some of
Obamacare’s biggest health insurance protections for their

The amendment would allow states to apply for waivers to
rescind two major regulations of Obamacare, if the state can
prove that healthcare costs would decrease as a result. That has
led to concerns about its potential effects on the individual
insurance market, but it could also change insurance for people
that get coverage through their jobs.

One of those Affordable Care Act-implemented protections,
called essential health benefits (EHB), requires insurers to
cover a baseline of 10 health procedures and items including
emergency-room visits, prenatal care, mental health care, and
some prescriptions.

Under Obamacare, employer plans could not place a lifetime
limit on the amount the plans pay out on EHBs and required plans
to limit the amount of out-of-pocket costs an employee had to pay
annually, according
to the Journal.
 That made plans more costly for
employers, but also provided better coverage for

In 2011, according to the Journal, the Obama
administration said companies could select whichever state’s
regulations they wanted for their insurance plans. But that
had little practical effect, since EHBs were mandated

But the AHCA could allow a firm to drop these
protections for employees by choosing regulations from a state
granted a waiver.

Here’s an example: a company could have operations in
South Carolina and Vermont. If South Carolina is granted a
waiver and drops the lifetime limit on maternity care for
insurance plans, the company could use that baseline to put a
lifetime cap on maternity care for employees in Vermont, as

Roughly half of all Americans get their insurance through
their workplace, so any weakening of those protections
could be wide-ranging.

It would remain to be seen if employers would be
willing to drop the protections. Larry Levitt, a senior vice
president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan
health-policy think tank, told the Journal that many employers
may continue to provide these protections to be competitive in
attracting talent.

Read the full analysis at the Wall Street Journal»