Healthcare Reform News Update for October 30, 2017
Expectations for the Upcoming Enrollment Period: Options, Costs, and Subsidies
Axios was given an early look at a Department of Health and Human Service’s report about this year’s open enrollment period. Here are some highlights:
- The average marketplace enrollee has 25 insurance plans to choose from.
- 45 percent of marketplace enrollees will have three or more competing insurance options
- 26 percent will have two insurance options
- 30 percent will have one insurance option
- The benchmark plan available to 27-year-olds is increasing its premiums by 37 percent on average.
- Premium tax credits (or subsidies) are increasing by 45 percent on average due to rising benchmark plan prices.
Trump Administration Proposes Changes to Essential Health Benefits
On Friday, the Trump administration proposed a new plan that would give states the option to alter essential health benefits on insurance plans. “Starting in 2019, states could select from coverage levels in another state, which could be less generous. Ten broad categories of services required by the health law would still have to be covered, but the fine print could change.” For example, insurers could choose to only cover specific prescription drugs.
The proposal also makes changes to subsidy eligibility, insurance company reimbursement, and small business health insurance markets.
Healthcare Reform News Update for October 27, 2017
Poll: A Majority of Americans Support Obamacare
Most U.S. citizens approve of the Affordable Care Act, and support for it has grown, according to a Reuters/Ipsos pollconducted October 14-23.
The poll found that 62 percent now want the law to be maintained, compared to 54 percent in January.
The poll also showed that 51 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans prefer that a bipartisan group work together to improve the law, instead of a single party.
As in other recent polls, this latest one exposed the continued consumer confusion on the state of the law with 11 percent believing that Obamacare had ended and 67 percent who believe it is “still operating.” Additional results from the poll are below.
On President Donald Trump’s decision to halt cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies:
- 56 percent were opposed to it
- 29 percent supported it
On who would do a better job at fixing Obamacare:
- Most Democrats said the federal government
- Most Republicans said individual U.S. states
On whether the law has been successful:
- Most Democrats said yes
- Most Republicans said no
Healthcare Reform News Update for October 26, 2017
ACA Silver Plan Premiums Will Rise 34 Percent
Premium increases for silver plans from healthcare.gov will go up an average of 34 percent for 2018, according to a study released Wednesday by consulting firm Avalere Health.
Premium changes will vary by state. For example, Iowa will raise premiums by 69 percent; Alaska is lowering premiums by 22 percent.
The rate hike is due to “market uncertainty and the federal government’s failure to pay for cost-sharing reductions,” said Avalere Senior Vice President Caroline Pearson.
It’s not just silver plans that are affected. The study also found that bronze plans will rise an average of 18 percent, and gold plans will increase an average of 16 percent.
Due to the Trump administration’s halting of cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, some states are adding a surcharge to their silver plans, which will help eligible consumers take advantage of tax credits to lower costs. Low-income consumers who receive subsidies won’t be affected by the increases if they choose a silver plan with the lowest or second-lowest cost in their region.
Federal Judge Denies Bid to Resume Cost-Sharing Reduction Subsidies
U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria denied a request from 19 attorneys general across the country that would force the Trump administration to immediately resume funding cost-sharing reduction payments under the Affordable Care Act.
Chhabria noted that states had devised workarounds to the lost subsidies, which totaled $7 billion this year, and that “emergency relief sought by the states would be counterproductive.”
The judge’s decision concerned only the emergency restraining order; lawsuits remain in effect over halting the payments.
Bipartisan Stabilization Bill Would Lower Deficit by $3.8 Billion
The bipartisan healthcare stabilization bill, authored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), would lower the federal deficit by $3.8 billion over 10 years, according to a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate.
The CBO report also noted that the bill would not affect the number of people with health insurance.
Conservative Republicans have not shown support for the bill, but Democrats and at least 12 Republicans are backing it.
Maryland to Raise Premiums as Much as 76 Percent
On Wednesday, regulators in Maryland gave two insurance companies permission to raise health premiums on some plans by as much as 76 percent for 2018.
CareFirst Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente said that recent orders from the Trump administration made the increases necessary. CareFirst will raise premiums 58.2 percent for silver HMO plans and 76 percent for silver PPOs. Kaiser premiums will go up 43.4 percent for silver HMO plans.
The increases will affect approximately 25,000 consumers in the state.
Maryland Insurance Administration Commissioner Al Redmer explained the approvals, which come less than two weeks before the open enrollment period. “We didn’t want to arbitrarily increase rates a month or so ago without having to. We erred on the side of the consumer to keep prices as low as possible for as long as we could.”
Democrats Propose Public Option Bill
Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) proposed a healthcare bill with 17 cosponsorson Wednesday that lets states set up a public option that expands Medicaid eligibility to anyone.
Even with backing by Congressional Democratic healthcare advocates such as Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Coy Booker (D-NJ), and Kamala Harris (D-CA), the bill is not expected to pass in the House.
House Will Not Vote on Healthcare This Year
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday that he has no plans to address the Alexander-Murray bipartisan stabilization bill or attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act until next year.
Healthcare Reform News Update for October 25, 2017
GOP Lawmakers Offer Alternative Healthcare Bill
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX) on Tuesday proposed new legislation to help stabilize the healthcare marketplace. The bill includes restoring cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies for two years like the current bill approved by a bipartisan committee, but adds some conservative measures.
The new bill includes delaying enforcement of the individual mandate, retroactively exempting businesses from offering healthcare, and allowing individuals to contribute more to health savings accounts. It also includes “pro-life protections,” details of which were not available.
President Donald Trump praised the work of representatives but gave no indication on whether he approves of the bill.
Poll: Voters Prefer to Keep Cost-Sharing Payments
A plurality of voters are against Trump’s move to cut off cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies to insurance companies that help pay healthcare costs for low-income consumers, according to a recent Morning Consult/Politico poll.
It also showed that even with a Republican majority in both houses and the White House, most voters blame Democrats and former President Barack Obama for the current state of the Affordable Care Act.
On ending the subsidies:
- 46 percent disapprove
- 39 percent approve
- 16 percent had no opinion
When asked who is responsible for the current state of the healthcare law:
- 67 percent said Obama
- 20 percent said Trump
The poll also showed considerable voter confusion on stabilization efforts:
- 45 percent correctly answered that the law has not been repealed or replaced
- 24 percent thought the law has been partially repealed
- 15 percent thought the law has been entirely repealed or replaced