Trump administration slashes 'Obamacare' sign-up assistance

Leslie Hanson
July 13, 2018

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a trade group representing insurers offering plans via employers, through government programs and in the individual marketplace, said the CMS suspension would create a "new market disruption" at a "critical time" when insurers are setting premiums for next year.

The Trump Administration said Tuesday it is slashing funding for groups that assist with Obamacare enrollment - marking the second consecutive year the Administration has cut such funding.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will temporarily freeze payments for the so-called "risk-adjustment" program that takes money from insurers and redistributes it to companies with more expensive patients.

Molina and Centene could each avoid $1 billion in payments into the pool for 2017, according to Jefferies.

The idea behind the program is to remove the financial incentive for insurers to "cherry pick" healthier customers. This is another act of sabotage by the administration.

But the Trump administration is hanging its decision to withhold subsidies to insurers on court decisions from New Mexico and MA which say the way those payments are handed out is too vague. "It will undermine Americans' access to affordable coverage, particularly those who need medical care the most".

A spokeswoman for the state Insurance Department said the agency is not commenting because officials are reviewing the federal government's announcement. A spokeswoman for ConnectiCare said the insurer is "monitoring developments" related to risk adjustment payments and plans to file its 2019 small group and individual plan rates next week. The CMS has appealed the decision, particularly because a MA court upheld such payments.

Ceci Connolly, who runs the Alliance of Community Health Plans, said the administration could do more to ensure the payments are quickly made, such as issuing the interim final rule, or pursuing other legal avenues. These limited benefit plans will compete directly with the comprehensive insurance on the exchanges, and navigators will be forced to sell consumers on them.

The nonprofit consortium was the largest recipient of federal navigator funds in North Carolina past year, handling more than $2.4 million to cover the expenses of 219 navigators across the state.

In listing examples of the kinds of groups eligible to apply for the money that remains, the CMS did not mention the grass-roots nonprofits that have done most of this work.

The latest "Obamacare" flare-up does not affect most people with employer coverage.

By the way, this rule was propagated by the Obama Administration, not President Trump.

In other words, Medicaid, CHIP and whatever other federal assistance is provided would be transformed into voucher programs, which has been the main aim of Trump and congressional Republicans. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 27 percent of people under the age of 65 have what could be considered a pre-existing condition.

Democrats were quick to denounce the administration's latest action. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., cast a crucial "no" vote, with a thumbs down gesture that's become a target of Trump criticism at campaign-style rallies. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that will raise premiums by about 10 percent. But premiums for people who buy individual coverage and are not eligible for ACA subsidies have continued rising by double digits.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

Discuss This Article