Saturday, 21 July, 2018

Trump administration freezes Obamacare funds

Trump administration freezes Obamacare payments, citing court decision Report: WH Suspends $10.4B in Obamacare Insurer Payments
Samantha Long | 10 July, 2018, 06:23

Health insurers warned that a move by the Trump administration on Saturday to temporarily suspend a program that was set to pay out $10.4 billion to insurers for covering high-risk individuals past year could drive up premium costs and create marketplace uncertainty. But the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law, finding that the fine consumers faced for not buying insurance was actually a tax.

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"We are very discouraged by the new market disruption brought about by the decision to freeze risk adjustment payments", the group said in a statement Saturday.

"Without a quick resolution to this matter, this action will significantly increase 2019 premiums for millions of individuals and small-business owners and could result in far fewer health plan choices", Scott Serota, president and CEO of The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, said in a statement. He says halting the risk adjustment program will disrupt the individual markets, and might even cause insurers not to participate next year.

"When the rules of the game change after the fact - insurers don't necessarily see the federal government as a particularly reliable partner right now", Levitt says.

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"We were disappointed by the court's recent ruling", Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which administers the program, told The Wall Street Journal in a statement. "This is one of several steps the Trump administration has taken to undermine the ACA". "So it seems like an extreme step to halt this program nationally based on a decision by one district court judge".

Democrats, meanwhile, are seizing on the unexpected action by characterizing it as another example of the administration sabotaging ObamaCare, a key Democratic message heading into the November midterm elections.

"We 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", President and CEO Scott Serota said in a statement. However, under Obamacare, insurance companies can not charge higher premiums, or even deny coverage, to clients with pre-existing conditions.

Reuters' characterization of the move is that "President Donald Trump's administration has used its regulatory powers to undermine Obamacare after the Republican-controlled Congress past year failed to repeal and replace the law". But, he adds that there's "something of a pattern now of the Trump administration using legal cases as hooks to undermine the ACA".

The suspension of the payments comes amid other efforts by the Trump administration to try to chip away at the landmark health care law.

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