Signed Budget Repeals Free Choice Voucher

On April 15, President Obama signed the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011. Included in the bill are provisions that will impact the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), one of two major health care reform bills signed into law by President Obama in March 2010.

Significantly, the recently signed bill repeals the PPACA’s free-choice voucher program. Under the program, employers who offer “minimum essential coverage” to their employees and their dependents and who pay any portion of the costs of the plan would have had to issue “free choice vouchers” for qualifying employees to use to purchase coverage in their state’s health insurance exchange if they declined to participate in their employers’ plans.
This provision does not eliminate the “pay or play” provisions of the ACA, which provide for penalties against employers who fail to offer minimum essential health care coverage or offer health care coverage that is not affordable.