Trump administration slashes more ObamaCare funds

Ebony Scott
July 15, 2018

The Trump administration is slashing funds to nonprofit organizations that help people obtain insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, just days after it suspended a program meant to stabilize the insurance market by helping offset costs associated with riskier patients.

Under the latest cuts, so-called navigators who sign up Americans for the ACA, also known as Obamacare, will get $10 million for the year starting in November, down from $36.8 million in the previous year, according to a statement by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). But the suspension of the federal payments for insurers who take on riskier consumers could complicate next year's market and boost prices yet again.

Kurtis Taylor, executive director of Alcohol/Drug Council of North Carolina, said that $33,333 in navigator funding paid for three part-time navigators this year. "And the reason that the penetration of value-based programs-even those that have upside-only risk-[has lagged] is that reluctance and the sense that they don't have deep capital reserves, aren't prepared and equipped to handle a significant financial shock like some sort of clawback because they missed their targets", Abrams says.

"I fear this latest decision, if it stands, will lead to fewer choices for consumers and higher premiums they would pay for health plans in 2019". About 20 million Americans have received health insurance coverage through the program. Despite its flaws, the Affordable Care Act effectively made insurance companies cover people no matter their medical history.

Trump Administration To Stop Paying Some Obamacare Bills

Scott Serota, president of the Blue Cross nationwide association, said insurers "are extremely disappointed that the administration has frozen payment transfers under the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) risk adjustment program, which is created to keep costs down for consumers while meeting the medical needs of those requiring significant care". There is a high likelihood that the court's decision will be appealed- primarily after a different court in MA endorsed the payments. "This decision reflects CMS' commitment to put federal dollars for the Federally-facilitated Exchanges to their most cost effective use in order to better support consumers through the enrollment process", CMS Administrator Seema Verma said. But those profits could be jeopardized without the risk adjustments. These are people who are not going to go to an insurance agent or broker. President Trump is imposing another uncertainty tax on consumers looking for health care. The Trump administration also is seeking to expand the use of short-term health insurance plans that are often less expensive but don't have the same consumer protections as exchange plans.

"State regulators will be in contact with carriers to determine the potential impact a lengthy suspension of risk adjustment payments could have on solvency and premiums", McPeak said in a statement. The program was also cut a year ago. The Republican Congress failed to repeal it, so the Trump administration has redoubled its efforts to gut it. The insurers have requested average rate increases for 2019 that range from 18.5 percent to 91.4 percent, depending on the type of plan.

"We have to be very cautious". There could have been a "substantive and thoughtful conversation" about what more needs to be done, she said.

The payments can be controversial, Dai said.

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