President Obama (White House photo)

President Obama quietly signed H.R. 1624, a small-group definition bill, into law Wednesday.

The new Protecting Affordable Care Coverage for Employees (PACE) Act will let each state decide whether to set its upper size limit for small groups at 50 employees or 100 employees.

The law changes a small-group definition provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA). The PPACA provision would have required all states to set their small-group cut-off at 100 employees starting in 2016.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has argued that leaving the PPACA definition requirement in place would have disrupted some states’ small-group markets.

Opponents of H.R. 1624, including Mike Kreidler, the Washington state insurance commissioner, and Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., had argued that state and federal regulators could have used other tools to ease definition-related market disruption; that the PACE Act itself will lead to new uncertainty in some states; and that letting the cut-off stay at 50 employees in some states will deprive employees of midsize employers of important new PPACA protections, such as the requirement that new small-group plans offer benefits comparable to those of a designated benchmark plan.

Janet Trautwein, chief executive officer of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU), put out a statement welcoming the signing of H.R. 1624, and welcoming the possibility that other PPACA-related bills could also become law.

“NAHU looks forward to working further with Congress toward the betterment of America’s health care system through logical and resolute fixes to the ACA,” Trautwein said in the statement.