President Trump

The National Retail Federation is backing efforts by Republican lawmakers to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a new health-care plan that does not require Americans to have medical insurance.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have put forward health-care legislation supported by President Trump to replace the ACA, also known as Obamacare, that most notably calls for a tax-credit system that would make it more alluring for Americans to buy insurance coverage on the open market.

Under the ACA, people who remain uninsured after a certain period of time are subject to a tax penalty, ensuring that everyone is paying into the health-care system, one way or another.

The ACA also defines a full-time employee as one who works 30 or more hours in a week and requires all businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to offer health insurance to at least 95 percent of that workforce. The NRF has long opposed both the full-time worker definition and the employer mandate.

“Retailers want reforms that push us toward a more competition-driven private health-care market, and the Obamacare repeal-and-replace bills take us in that direction,” said David French, NRF senior vice president for government relations, of the Republican proposal.

The NRF objected when House Speaker Paul Ryan (R, Wisc.) previously proposed an income cap for exclusion from employer-provided benefits, which the association claimed would amount to a benefits tax. That idea did not make it into the new Republican proposal.

While NRF’s vice president of health-care policy Neil Trautwein said the association is pleased that Republican lawmakers heard retailers’ concerns on that issue, he also characterized the new proposal as “a train that left the station without us” and one that’s moving quickly.

“We want to make sure that this does not disrupt health-care plans as much as possible but that the [proposal] offers fewer regulations that will hopefully make health care less expensive,” Trautwein said. “What attracts us [to this proposal] is the chance to get out from under the employer mandate and the chance to find more affordable coverage that [isn’t available] with the ACA.”

The NRF has opposed the ACA since it was enacted in 2010 and has long been pushing for its repeal. At the time of its enactment, the association claimed that the ACA would do little but increase the cost of health care for companies, likely resulting in more employees losing their jobs and more people being uninsured.

Only 11 percent of people in the U.S. were uninsured as of 2016, according to Gallup data, the lowest rate in eight years. The U.S. unemployment rate has also remained below 6 percent since the ACA tax mandate took effect January 2014.

Of the statistics, Trautwein only said that it’s “always tough to project forward.”

“We retailers are strong supporters of group health care, but about 177 million Americans get their coverage through employers, and the fuss and fury has really been over the individual market,” Trautwein said. “We’ve argued that you can address that population, but we don’t want what we’ve built with group insurance to be disturbed.”

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