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Posted March 15, 2021

Benefits Buzz returns


“What we really have is a mixed message. I think what it says is Americans weren’t ready for profound change.”

That’s what Chris Byrd, our executive vice president for the health division of WEX, said regarding the results of November’s election, which saw the Democrats take the presidency and slight control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. While Democrats are in control of all three, the Senate is just via tie-breaker, and their advantage in the House actually shrunk.

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Byrd was our first guest for Season 4 of Benefits Buzz, which is our podcast that invites industry leaders to share insight on a variety of topics, including employee benefits, leadership, compliance, communication, and more. The first episode was released today, which you can watch above. 

Byrd discussed a variety of post-election healthcare topics, including Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies, the future of HSAs, and potential rollbacks of the Trump agenda. Here are three takeaways:

Moderate Democrats are empowered

Following the November election, Democrats hold a 10-seat majority in the House. The Senate has 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, with Vice President Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote. These slight majorities mean that we shouldn’t expect considerable healthcare changes, since Democrats will need to appeal to both wings of their party in order to get bills passed.

“It was a closer election than I think anybody expected it to be,” Byrd said.

Particularly, more moderate Democratic senators such as Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) will hold considerable sway, according to Byrd.

“They’re the two most centrist Democratic senators who are both from states that aren’t particularly blue,” Byrd said. “If you lose one of those, it doesn’t matter.”

Strengthening the ACA

President Biden was the Vice President when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law by President Obama in 2010. It’s central to his platform. So it’s no surprise that it’s expected to be further strengthened during Biden’s presidency. 

What does strengthening the ACA look like? A higher level of subsidies and no barriers to opting out of an employer plan. 

Room for potential HSA expansion

While it’s unlikely there will be significant changes to HSAs with the current political makeup of Congress, we could see some “incremental” steps taken to expand the ability of individuals to participate and contribute to them. Four groups that could benefit from this would be: 

  • Individuals still working after age 65 who are enrolled in Medicare.
  • Veterans who receive healthcare from the Veterans Administration (VA).
  • Current military and retirees who receive healthcare from Tricare.
  • Native Americans who receive healthcare from the Indian Health Service (IHS).

“I think those kinds of things have a reasonable chance of advancing in the current Congress,” Byrd said. 

For more from Byrd, check out the podcast episode above or subscribe today


WEX Health

WEX Health

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