Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) have introduced the bipartisan Commonsense Reporting Act of 2017, an effort to streamline and modernize employer reporting requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“This legislation would strike a balance between ensuring the Treasury Department has the necessary data to determine availability of affordable coverage, while cutting down on unnecessary paperwork and administrative costs for businesses,” a statement by the legislators says.

The ACA requires employers and insurers to report information about health insurance coverage to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at the end of the tax year. The proposed legislation directs the Treasury Department to implement an alternative, prospective reporting system that is more workable and less burdensome for employers than current regulations.

The Commonsense Reporting Act streamlines this process by establishing a voluntarily system which would allow employers to report pertinent information before open enrollment begins, to minimize the administrative burden at the back-end, and limit the collection of unneeded information.

A breakdown of the legislation follows.

Creating a voluntary prospective reporting system

It permits employers to voluntarily report general information to the IRS prospectively about their health plan for the current plan year to help increase the accuracy of eligibility determinations for Exchange tax credits; state and federally-facilitated Exchanges will access information securely through the Data Services Hub.

Streamlining the reporting process

It eases reporting burdens for employers who use the voluntary  prospective reporting system by requiring 6056 reporting statements only for those employees for whom the employer has received notification that the employee or their dependents purchased coverage through an Exchange rather than issuing reporting statements for the entire workforce.

Protecting privacy

 IT Provides clarification that the IRS can accept full names and dates of birth in lieu of dependents’ and spouses’ Social Security numbers and requires the Social Security Administration assist in the data-matching process.

Modernizing transmission of information to individuals

 It allows for electronic transmission of employee and enrollee statements rather than requiring this information be provided only by paper statement sent through the mail.

Establishing oversight of reporting verification

It requires the Government Accountability Office to study the functionality of the prospective reporting system, including the accuracy of information collected, the number of employers electing to report under such system, and any changes that have arisen.

The bill has been endorsed by numerous healthcare and business groups, including:  the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; America’s Health Insurance Plans; Retail Industry Leaders Association; National Association of Convenience Stores, National Association of Health Underwriters, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors; National Federation of Independent Business, National Grocers Association, National Restaurant Association,; and the National Retail Federation.

“This legislation couples important data collection with the flexibility and efficiency employers need to continue implementing the law,” Warner said in a statement. “It’s time to find common ground with serious legislative efforts that provide more affordable, accessible, and quality health care to all Americans, regardless of where they purchase their coverage. Hopefully this is the first step of many bipartisan solutions.”