Hurry Up and Wait: Complying with Obamacare in 2020 - Zupnick Associates

If you’re like any body else, you might be wondering: What in the netherworld is (will be) going on with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2020? As repeated attacks and a pending court case levied against the law loom, many of us tip toe through a fog of ACA confusion as we ease into the new year.

Let’s do our best to lift the fog over Obamacare in 2020.

Is the ACA Still a Thing?

Despite early promises of repeal and replace from a galvanized 2016 administration with (at least initially) a Republican-led House and Senate, the ACA is indeed still a thing. That is–mostly.

Congress nixed the most controversial element of the law: the individual mandate penalty that attempted to limit premium hikes for the old and sick by requiring coverage for all.

More recently, on December 15th, a Texas district court reached a ruling in Texas v. Azar, the most recent challenge to the ACA. They “struck the law down” in its entirety. Except not really. They did not issue an injunction. In addition, the case was almost immediately remanded, meaning it was passed back to a lower court for reconsideration. That means the law is still effectively active. Until the Supreme Court rules, the Trump administration intends to continue administering the law. This ruling won’t happen until 2020 at the earliest.

So, yep, it’s still the law. You might think it declawed, but, if you’re a business, don’t forget that you’ve got to comply with Obamacare in 2020.

What’s Happening Now?

Well, the open enrollment period from November 1st to December 15th just passed.

The Waiting Game

You might not have even known that the enrollment period passed (#Ididnt). That’s because the initial kill-it-before-breeds approach to the law has quieted and evolved into more of a see-no-evil-speak-no-evil sort-of thing–at least on Capitol Hill (they’re busy with other things like impeachment).

That’s colorful language to say we’re playing the waiting game. Many of us are probably guilty of this. I, for one, had mostly stopped following this because of the confusion. What is everyone waiting for? Here are the bullet points:

  • Another final, sweeping Supreme Court decision
  • The 2020 election
  • The Texas v. Azar re-trial
  • A replacement bill

Still Confused?

“Yes”, “yes”, and what was that in the back again? Oh another “yes”? You’re not alone. Everyone’s confused because the whole life of the law has been fraught with sweeping statements and absolute judgements. Don’t worry, though. I’m gonna bottom-line this.

What Does This Mean for Employers?

Here’s the short answer: An extra fat helping of nothing. It means squat, diddly, nada. Again, the Affordable Care Act is still the law, and barring acts of God, it will continue to be so. That’s the bottom-line.

Why bother explaining what’s going on then, you ask? Besides that I like the sound of my own writing, I think it’s important to show why and how this is confusing so that I can pretty much just tell you to ignore the developments so far. You’ve done your job checking in. Now kindly brain-dump all that info until real, sustainable decisions are made. Continue playing the waiting game.

What Do You Need to Do in 2020?

Now, let’s get down to what you actually need to do with regard to compliance with Obamacare in 2020 as an employer. I’d just call it business as usual, but let’s assume you know nothing about the ACA. This article provides a list of actionable steps to take in terms of health plan policies, employee benefits, tax arrangements, reporting, and other action items. To sum here:

  • Grandfathering: Are you grandfathered out of certain requirements for your group health plan? Figure this out.
  • Plan benefits and required changes: Ensure that any policy changes, real-time or proposed, comply with laws such as the waiting period of 90 days until a plan becomes active for an employee.
  • Tax breaks: If you’re getting tax breaks via HRAs, FSAs, or cafeteria plans, make sure you’re in compliance.
  • Notice: Give appropriate notice (14 days) to new employees with information about the Health Insurance Marketplace.
  • Applicable Large Employers (ALE): Employers with 50 or more employees have a more complex compliance job. Review these rules. They’re a handful. Consult a professional if need be.
  • Reporting: You must report in early 2020 on coverage for 2019.
  • Other action items: There are lots of odds and ends such as MLRs, taxes for high earners, PCORI fees, and much more.

If you’ve been doing this for some years already, you shouldn’t have a problem complying with Obamacare in 2020. If not, get it together. It’s a bit of a challenge.


The death bells for the ACA have been ringing on and off since conception. And still the ACA stands. It’s still the law, and until a final say-so has been federally observed, you’re going to want to comply. There’s a lot in the works that could potentially overturn the law. But for now, hurry up with your compliance preparations, and wait for more developments. Want to learn more about health & life? Check out our page. 

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