[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official profile] signed [press release] the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act (HR 1624) [text] into law on Wednesday. This law will amend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) [text] by changing businesses with 51-100 employees to a “large employer” designation instead of the current “small employer” designation. States will have the option of treating currently designated small employers as such if the business employs 100 or fewer employees during 2015 and at least one employee on January 1, 2016. The law will also create funding for a Medicare Improvement Fund to be available for services beginning in 2020. Obama has signed 13 amendments [Congressional Research Service report, PDF] to the ACA since the law’s inception, but this amendment marks the first time in four years that Republicans in Congress passed a bipartisan measure designed to improve the functionality of the ACA.
Comprehensive health care reform [JURIST backgrounder] was passed by Congress in March 2010, and recent legal challenges have reinvigorated debate. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) [official website] reports that between 2010 and 2015, at least 21 states enacted laws attempting to challenge or completely opt out of mandatory provisions of the ACA. In June the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] in King v. Burwell [SCOTUSblog materials] that tax credits available to those who buy health insurance through state exchanges are also available to those who buy it through the federal exchange. Last year the court ruled [JURIST report] in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that closely held corporations can deny contraceptive coverage to their employees for religious reasons.