Trump administration takes another swipe at 'Obamacare'

Donald Trump

The Trump administration said on July 7 that it would temporarily suspend some payments to health insurers under the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) risk adjustment program, in light of a ruling earlier this year by a federal district court in New Mexico. The payments insurers expected this fall, based on their 2017 business, amounted to $10.4 billion. "The executive order the president signed, not long after he got to the White House after the [Inaugural] Parade was effectively, 'We're declaring war on the Affordable Care Act.'" Whitlock says, the goal has been to make the marketplace as inhospitable as possible for participating plans, and this is just one more step in that direction.

While imperfect, the risk adjustment program "has helped promote market stability over the past five years", Wehrle said.

"As a result of this litigation, billions of dollars in risk adjustment payments and collections are now on hold", she said. Insurers say the sudden halting of those payments creates uncertainty at a critical time, as they are now developing their premiums for 2019.

A federal court in MA upheld the same allocation formula in January.

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 a year ago failed to repeal and replace the law".

CMS administrator Seema Verma said in a statement the administration was "disappointed" in the February ruling and that CMS has asked the court to reconsider and "hopes for a prompt resolution that allows CMS to prevent more adverse impacts on Americans". Many agree-Democrats and Republicans-that a person with a pre-existing condition needs health insurance coverage and should not be denied on that fact.

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The main insurance trade associations in Washington have been organizing calls with their member companies and trying to coordinate a response.

Martin Hickey, the founder of New Mexico Health Connections, the state's health care co-op and the company that filed the lawsuit, believes the court ruling will reduce the prices and benefit consumers.

"I think insurers are going to be watching very closely what the administration says in court, and whether this is a sign of further steps to undermine the law, or a good faith effort to try to comply with the judge's order", he says. Overall, the momentum has been positive, with numerous major insurers following the broader market's upward momentum.

But supporters of the ACA criticized the CMS announcement as the latest move by the Trump administration to undermine Obamacare.

"It has caused insurer collapses and market exits that reduced competition".

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