Healthcare Reform News Update for October 17, 2017
Trump Backs Bipartisan ACA Fix, Predicts Solution by April
President Donald Trump on Monday backed a bipartisan Obamacare fix, after speaking with Health Committee Chairman Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). He also said there would be a long-term fix by April of next year.
The president urged Alexander to get a bipartisan deal that will continue cost-sharing reduction payments for up to two years, according to an aide.
On his future plans, Trump said: “I think we’ll have a short-term fix, and then we’ll have a long-term fix, and that will take place probably in March or April. We will have a very solid vote. It’ll be probably 100 percent Republican, no Democrats, but most people know that’s gonna be a very good form of health insurance.”
Two Senators to Propose New Healthcare Option
Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) plan to unveil legislation this week that would allow non-elderly workers to enroll in Medicare-style plans.
The proposal is considered a public option called “Medicare-X” that would allow consumers to purchase healthcare plans that use the network of Medicare providers and physicians at similar rates. Low-income workers would receive tax credits. The plan would be rolled out in two phases. At first, Medicare-X would only be available in counties that have one or no providers on the Obamacare exchange. Phase two would roll the plan out to all counties.
A similar plan was proposed in 2009 and 2010 during the Obama administration but was dropped.
Healthcare Reform News Update for October 16, 2017
18 States Sue Over Trump’s ACA Subsidy Decision
President Donald Trump’s move to eliminate cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies has brought about a multistate lawsuit filed in federal court October 13. Eighteen states and Washington, D.C., filed a complaint to try to ensure that scheduled payments to insurers resume.
The Trump administration says that the subsidies are illegal. In a statement, the White House commented: “Based on guidance from the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare. In light of this analysis, the Government cannot lawfully make the cost-sharing reduction payments.”
One of the complainants, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says the subsidies must be paid as long as the Affordable Care Act remains in force. He said that eliminating the subsidies is “… breathtakingly reckless. This move is unacceptable, it’s cruel, and it is unlawful.”
Pro-Trump States Most Affected by Subsidy Cutoff
States that helped elect Trump benefited the most from insurance cost-sharing reduction payments. An analysis by The Associated Press found that:
- 70 percent of beneficiaries live in states that Trump won last November.
- In the 30 states he won, nearly 4 million people benefited from the subsidies.
- Of the 10 states with the highest percentage of consumers benefiting from CSR payments, all but one favored Trump.
Key Republican Urges Trump to Resume Payments
Senator Susan Collins of Maine has called on Trump to support a bipartisan effort to reinstate insurer payments. Collins said: “What the president is doing is affecting people’s access and the cost of health care right now. This is not a bailout of the insurers. What this money is used for is to help low-income people afford their deductibles and their co-pays.”
A bipartisan attempt by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) would fund the subsidies for up to two years to help to stabilize Obamacare. The subsidies help insurers lower out-of-pocket costs for about 6 million people enrolled in Obamacare plans.
The insurer payments have stopped just two weeks prior to the open enrollment period.
Healthcare Reform News Update for October 13, 2017
Trump to End Subsidies to Health Insurers
The federal government will discontinue cost-sharing subsidies that help health insurance companies defer costs for low-income citizens, the Trump administration announced Thursday. The payments will stop immediately, with no transition period.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that “based on guidance from the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare.”
Many insurance companies predicted the move and raised premiums for 2018 plans accordingly; some left the marketplace. It’s too soon to know if additional insurers will follow suit.
Cutting the subsidies is seen as a blow to the Affordable Care Act. Critics call the move “sabotage.” In reaction, attorneys general from California and New York announced their intentions to sue the Trump administration in an attempt to protect the payments.
Anthem Reduces Planned Premium Hikes in California
Anthem Blue Cross in California will reduce its 2018 planned premium increases to individuals by 3 percent and small business by 2.5 percent after questioning by state regulators. The company will now increase rates approximately 37 percent.
It’s anticipated that the new rates will save roughly $21 million for individuals and $93 million for small businesses.
Healthcare Reform News Update for October 12, 2017
Navigator Groups to Severely Reduce Services After Funding Cuts
The majority of Obamacare Navigator groups are limiting their services due to budget cuts by the Trump administration, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey conducted between September 22 and October 4.
Funding for the Navigator groups, which provide outreach, education, and enrollment assistance, was cut an average of 41 percent for the 2018 budget year, though the amount of cuts for each state vary widely from none to 82 percent.
Findings from respondents who answered the survey as “very likely” or “somewhat likely” include:
- 55 percent of statewide programs and 72 percent of regional programs will limit services to rural residents.
- 89 percent expect to lay off staff due to the cuts.
- 89 percent will spend less on advertising.
- 81 percent will reduce the number of their outreach activities and events.
- 57 percent will reduce the number of months that they provide enrollment assistance.
- 57 percent will reduce the time they devote to assisting consumers with complex cases.
California Imposes Surcharge on Silver Plans
California’s state health exchange said it plans to impose a surcharge of 12.4 percent to silver-level health plans in 2018. The surcharge is a result of the Trump administration’s refusal to commit to making key insurer payments known as cost-sharing reductions. With the surcharge, average rates for silver-level plans will be about 25 percent higher next year, according to Covered California.
About 78 percent of the consumers who have been using cost-sharing reductions will face little or no increase in their actual out-of-pocket coverage payments as a result of the change, officials said. Of the remaining consumers, about half will see increases of less than $25 per month.
West Virginia Approves Double-Digit Exchange Increases
West Virginia officials approved double-digit rate increases for health plans offered in the state through the federal Obamacare exchange. Highmark West Virginia will increase premiums by 25.6 percent for 2018, while CareSource Insurance will increase 19.6