Trump Moves to Stabilize the Obamacare Exchanges

Trump-obamacare-exchanges-Brennan Linsley AP
Brennan Linsley/AP

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a new rule on Thursday to keep insurers in the Obamacare exchanges.

HHS will make changes to the individual insurance marketplace to prevent insurers from leaving the Obamacare exchanges or raising insurance premiums next year.

The Trump administration’s new rule seeks to stabilize the Obamacare insurance marketplace while Congress continues to work on repealing Obamacare.

The new rule includes several changes insurers requested to keep them in the insurance marketplace:

  • Shortening the sign-up period for 2018 by half, lasting from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15.
  • Requiring people who sign up for coverage in special enrollment periods to prove they qualify. This rule will cut down on people who only sign up for coverage once they get sick.
  • Allowing insurers to require people to pay past-due premiums before enrolling in a new plan with the same insurer the following year.
  • Allowing insurers the flexibility to offer health plans with fewer options.

Insurance companies cheered the new rule but cautioned that they will wait to see how the Trump administration will handle Obamacare’s insurance reimbursements.

Insurers threatened to raise premiums or leave the Obamacare exchanges if they no longer receive the Obamacare reimbursements for offering discounted deductibles and copayments for lower-income Americans.

The White House will continue to provide these cost-sharing subsidies, although Trump signaled that he might cancel the reimbursements to force Democrats to sign a deal on health care reform.

In 2016 a federal judge ruled against the Obama administration but allowed the federal government to continue providing Obamacare subsidies while the administration appealed the decision. Republicans sought to delay the court case after Trump was elected president.

Marilyn Tavenner, the president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and the former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator, praised the rule for adopting “important changes” to “improve the functioning of the individual market” but said insurers still need to hear Trump’s final decision whether to retain the Obamacare subsidies.

Tavenner said, “There is still too much instability and uncertainty in this market. Most urgently, health plans and the consumers they serve need to know that funding for cost-sharing reduction subsidies will continue uninterrupted. Without funding, millions of Americans who buy their own plan will be harmed.”

The AHIP CEO cautioned that many plans would drop out of the Obamacare marketplace if the subsidies discontinue and premiums could rise as much as 20 percent. She warned, “We urge Congress and the administration to act now to guarantee funding for cost-sharing reduction subsidies.”


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