In late November, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he had selected House Budget Committee chairman Tom Price, a former orthopedic surgeon, to be secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). If confirmed by the US Senate, Price - a staunch critic of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) - will oversee the new Administration's efforts to repeal and replace President Barack Obama's signature healthcare reform law.

Since 2009 Price has sponsored the Empowering Patients First Act, which advocates for health care coverage but does not require employers to provide insurance to their employees. He has reintroduced the legislation in every Congress with modifications. It would derive part of its funding from limiting the employer tax exclusion or deduction of healthcare premiums at $8,000 for individuals and $20,000 for family coverage.

His bill is different from the ACA as there is no 40% excise tax of employer’s high-value health plans (those with premiums over $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families). Those plans with be subject to the Cadillac tax which is scheduled for 2020.

"I think employers would be much happier with a cap on the deduction than they would be with a 40% excise tax on premiums," said Brian Pinheiro, chair of the employee benefits group at law firm Ballard Spahr in Philadelphia. "The lost deduction is a lot less punitive when you look at it on an after-tax basis. If your effective corporate tax rate is under 40%, which for most companies it would be, the deduction is going to be a cheaper alternative."