The House and Senate have approved a bill (H.R. 1624) that would amend the Affordable Care Act’s definition of “small employer” to reduce the number of employers covered by new health insurance coverage requirements set to go into effect in 2016. The legislation would define small employers as those with 50 or fewer employees (rather than 100 under the ACA) for purposes of health insurance markets. While the bill would give states the option to expand the definition of small employer to those with as many as 100 employees, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) does not expect most states to expand the definition. The CBO expect that the legislation would result in a net reduction in health premiums for insurance purchased by firms with between 51 and 100 employees. Both chambers approved the measure by voice vote, and the President is reported to be expected to sign the legislation.

Separately, on September 28, the House approved H.R. 2061, the Equitable Access to Care and Health (EACH) Act, which would expand the religious conscience exemption from the ACA requirement that most individuals obtain health insurance coverage or pay a penalty. Specifically, the bill would exempt from the individual insurance mandate an individual who relies solely on a religious method of healing, and for whom the acceptance of medical health services would be inconsistent with the religious beliefs of the individual. The Senate has not yet considered this bill.